The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman is a glorious mixture of ghosts, grief and the Yorkshire moors of the Brontës. With three timelines to juggle, the novel’s structure is held together by a real house, Ponden Hall, and its true links to Emily Brontë. Mixing historical fact with flights of imagination – the letters of a 17th century servant Agnes – there is a lot going on. Central are the themes of grief, the different types of love and mother/child relationships.
Trudy Heaton’s husband Abe is missing presumed dead after a plane crash in South America, so she takes their son Will to her childhood home, Ponden Hall in Yorkshire. Tru’s return is wondrous and difficult, a return to the old house and moors she loved near Haworth, home to the Brontës; but also an awkward reunion with Ma, with whom she has not spoken for 16 years. When Tru finds a loose page from a diary written by Emily Brontë, who visited the house and used its library, and some 17th century documents by an Agnes Heaton, she starts a hunt for the truth. At the same time she must renovate the almost derelict house, and help Will negotiate his new life without his father in a strange place. Will likes Ponden Hall, the Granny he has never met before, and Mab the old retriever, but he acquires an imaginary friend. Also hovering on the scene is Marcus Ellis, house restorer and Brontë addict, who arrives to assess the repairs needed and grants available to save Ponden Hall. Ma doesn’t like Marcus’s neat blue jeans, Tru finds him unsettlingly calm, and Will likes the computer games and wi-fi at Marcus’s ultra-modern home.
And all the time, Will expects his father to return and asks his mother why she stopped looking for him. As both mother and son process their grief, the losses, brutality and bereavements of other generations at Ponden Hall are uncovered. Has Tru found a story previously uncovered only by Emily Brontë, and did Emily leave an unfinished second novel hidden somewhere at Ponden Hall?
The adventure and excitement of a bookish girl, searching for real… ‘the existence of a childhood dream come true, almost like finding a snowy forest at the back of a wardrobe.’
Another immersive read on holiday for me, 4* rather than 5* because of some unbelievable elements and impracticalities which took me away from the world on the page and made me wonder… ‘but’. To avoid spoilers I can’t be more specific but they are not ghost or Brontë-related.
BUY THE BOOK
If you like this, try:-
‘Yuki Chan in Brontë Country’ by Mick Jackson
‘Wakenhyrst’ by Michelle Paver
‘Love and Eskimo Snow’ by Sarah Holt
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by @RowanColeman #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-460 via @SandraDanby