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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

Title:  Girl in the Photograph

Author: Kate Riordan
Publisher: January 15th 2015 by Penguin Books (UK)
ISBN: 9781405917421
Pages: 407 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, drama
My Rating: three and a half crowns


The Girl in the Photograph is a haunting and atmospheric novel that tells the tales of women in two different eras – the 1890’s and 1930’s – and how their lives seem to be entwined by fate. Kate Riordan’s novel is a beautifully dark and beguiling tale which will sweep you away. It will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.

In the summer of 1933, Alice Eveleigh has arrived at Fiercombe Manor in disgrace. The beautiful house becomes her sanctuary, a place to hide her shame from society in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. But the manor also becomes a place of suspicion, one of secrecy.

Something isn't right.

Someone is watching.

There are secrets that the manor house seems determined to keep. Tragedy haunts the empty rooms and foreboding hangs heavy in the stifling heat. Traces of the previous occupant, Elizabeth Stanton, are everywhere and soon Alice discovers Elizabeth's life eerily mirrors the path she herself is on.

My thoughts:

“There is something enchanting and mysterious about it…. you glimpse places…. lonely houses tucked into the countryside, almost hidden in the folds of the hills. You wonder who lives in them, what’s happened in their history”.

This is a story of two women told in two time periods (alternating chapters) and the events that occur resulting from the societal attitudes of the time. It is a story of relationships. Both women, Elizabeth in 1890s and Alice in 1930s, are expecting a child and both are at the mercy of their family’s - Alice is banished from her family, for foolishly falling in love with a married man; Elizabeth seeks approval from her husband and the pressure of having to provide a male heir.

“(There is a) tangible bond to connect Elizabeth’s time and mine, and I thought again of the silken tether that seemed to pull me back towards her”.

The ‘Girl in the Photograph’ is a substantial read being over 400 pages with Riordan presenting vivid descriptions– the setting, both manor house and the surroundings are really well portrayed – but at times it borders on a little too much and therefore becomes a bit tedious.

“I indulged myself…looking at the manor with new eyes, seeing it not just as a house brimming with centuries of secrets – secrets sewn into the faded tapestries and slipped down the cracks in the floorboards”.

What I believe Riordan does very well is portray mental health issues in the late 19th century – this aspect of the story is riveting and sadly, captivating. It makes you stop and consider the attitudes of the period towards women, pregnancy and the associated mental health.

“…The air crackled and vibrated as if some remnant of their presence echoed down through the centuries, an empty valley crowded with ghosts”.

The last segment of the book concerning Alice was disappointing; it felt as if everything was resolved too neatly. For example the way Alice’s relationship with her mother evolved or the sudden romantic aspect, that just seemed forced and a weak, contrived link - disappointing. Also, the earlier haunting ghost aspect seemed to drift away. Here was one component that I felt so much more could have been made of. I wanted Riordan to take it that step further and make connections, past and present, in a Katie Morton fashion.  Elizabeth's story, however, was an entirely different matter - I found it totally mesmerising and emotionally moving.  It's a tragic tale that fills the reader with a sense of horror and at times anger. So on the whole I enjoyed the story and maybe it will weave enchantment over you:

“The valley and the people who had lived here were weaving their enchantment around me already”.

U.S. readers be aware this is published in America as ‘Fiercombe Manor’.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

1 comment:

Kathleen Kelly said...

From the review I want to read it...I found it on Edelweiss, thank you for sharing. I have to say I love the UK cover better than the US version, the title is even better...