Tag Archives: ghosts

#BookReview ‘The Girl at the Window’ by @RowanColeman #paranormal #mystery

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. Rowan Coleman

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.

If you like this, try:-
Yuki Chan in Brontë Country’ by Mick Jackson
Wakenhyrst’ by Michelle Paver
Love and Eskimo Snow’ by Sarah Holt

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Book review: The Silent Companions

Laura PurcellHow to describe this novel? Spooky, mysterious? A tale of witchcraft and trickery or malicious exploitation and fraud? The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell starts with a woman in an asylum. Mute, she is given chalk and a slate with which to communicate. What follows is her account of the Bainbridge family and their country home, The Bridge.

From the beginning until the end, we do not know who to believe. The story is told in three strands – a woman in an asylum, accused of murder; a young widow who arrives at her husband’s family home, pregnant and vulnerable; and a couple excitedly prepare for a royal visit by Charles I. What unfolds is a complicated story. Purcell handles the many threads well although I would have preferred a clear delineation with each new section marked by date.

Elsie, the daughter of a match factory owner in London, is a survivor. She supported her mother after her father was killed in a ghastly workplace accident, she supported her younger brother Jolyon as their mother also fell ill. And when Jolyon brings a new investor for the factory the siblings, now jointly own, Elise marries Rupert Bainbridge. Odd things start to happen after Rupert dies soon after the marriage and Elsie goes for the first time to The Bridge. Exploring the rundown dusty house when she hears a noise at night, Elsie finds a locked door and in the room behind is a wooden stand-up figure of a girl. From this point, odd things start to happen, getting odder and more frequent as the tale progresses. The reader doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust. It feels as if everyone might be lying for their own ends, or perhaps the villagers are right and the house is riddled with witchcraft. But concrete things keep happening which cannot be denied.

This is a strange, unsettling read.

Read more about Laura Purcell here.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters
‘The Penny Heart’ by Martine Bailey
‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown

‘The Silent Companions’ by Laura Purcell [UK: Raven Books] Buy now

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Book review: The House on Cold Hill

Peter JamesIs it a crime story, is it a ghost story, is it a thriller? I don’t care, it’s great. This is the first Peter James book I have read, and I loved it. It is a mystery about a family moving to a new house in the country, then everything starts to go wrong. Have they just bought the wrong house? Bad luck? Co-incidences? Or is someone attacking them, and why?

As the oddities become more frequent, Ollie becomes more frantic as the house crumbles, his new business clients are sabotaged, and he fears for his wife and daughter. The tension is handled brilliantly, the first quarter of the book is a slow build as we get to know the family and the house, after that the screw is turned relentlessly. James is a skilled storyteller.

After finishing reading this novel, I discovered that Peter James used his own experience of living in a haunted house. This shows on every page, the things that happen in the house, Ollie’s reactions, the understandable belief that ‘this is not real’.

Peter James’ novels are published in 36 languages. To find out more, click here for his website.

If you like The House on Cold Hill, try:-
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
The Cheesemaker’s House by Jane Cable
The Quarry by Iain Banks
‘The House on Cold Hill’ by Peter James [UK: Macmillan] Buy now

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Book review: A Sudden Light

a sudden light by garth stein 22-9-14How to define this story? It’s a coming of age tale, a ghost story, it’s about forests and trees and about man’s responsibility to nature. I loved it, one of the best books I‘ve read this year and quite different from everything else.

Garth Stein [below] is a new author for me. I was attracted to this book by three features: the ethereal cover, the setting in the Pacific North-Western corner of the US, and the family/saga ghost story combination.

Trevor’s parents are separated. His mother has flown home to England for the summer while Trevor visits for the first time his ancestral home on the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle. Trevor’s objective is to repair his parents’ marriage, he is not sure how. But from the first day he and his father, Jones, arrive at Riddell House on The North Estate, everything seems strange. The house is enormous, built by Trevor’s great-great-grandfather Elijah Riddell a century earlier, testament to Elijah’s riches earned from his logging business. It is a mansion, built from timber, set amongst trees, isolated and rotting. The house is at the centre of this story; its physicality, its history, what it meant to Elijah and his son Ben, and what the sale of it could mean to the current Riddell generation: much needed cash. Trevor meets his aunt Serena [she asks him to call her Simply Serena] and his Grandfather Samuel, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The mysteries start from day one. garth stein - photo garthstein.com 22-9-14Is the ghost of Jones and Serena’s mother dancing upstairs? What exactly is Serena’s agenda, is she trying to seduce 14-year old Trevor? Is Grandfather Samuel speaking rubbish, or not? And what secret is Jones hiding? Money is at the centre of this tale, a family who earned fortunes as the 19th century turned into the 20th by forging timber links with the railroads. That same family now has a mansion which is falling into ruin, while Jones is newly bankrupt after the failure of his boatbuilding business.

Everyone has an agenda at Riddell House that summer, including Trevor.

To watch the book trailer for A Sudden Light, click here.
To visit Garth Stein’s website, click here.
Click here to explore the North Estate, the enigmatic setting for A Sudden Light.
‘A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein [UK: Simon & Schuster]