Author: Kate Riordan
Type of book: Gothic, supernatural, 1899, 1933, 1936, England, confinement, tragedy, postpartum depression and its effects, romance, hidden stories ,treatment, mental institution, helplessness, adultery
Year it was published: 2015
A house as old as Fiercombe Manor holds many secrets within its walls. But which dark chapter of its history is haunting Alice, a young woman staying there during the course of a fateful summer?
In 1933, naive twenty-two-year-old Alice is pregnant, unmarried, and disgraced. She can no longer share her parents' London home, so her desperate mother concocts a cover story and begs her old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, for help. The housekeeper at rural Fiercombe Manor, Mrs. Jelphs is moved by Alice's "plight" as a new widow and agrees to watch over her in the secluded English countryside until the baby is born and given up for adoption. Because the manor house's owners, Lord and Lady Stanton, no longer live there, Alice's only company will be Mrs. Jelphs and her skeleton staff.
Thirty years before Alice's arrival, Lady Elizabeth Stanton awaits the birth of her second child, fervently hoping he will be the boy her husband desires. But as her time nears, she is increasingly tormented by memories of what happened with her first baby and terrified that history will repeat itself . . . with devastating consequences.
At first, Fiercombe Manor offers Alice a welcome relief from her mother's disapproving gaze. But she begins to sense that all is not well in the picturesque Gloucestershire valley. After a chance encounter with Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice discovers that Fiercombe's beauty is haunted by the clan's tragic past. She is determined to exorcise the ghosts of the idyllic, isolated house.
Nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley?
The characters that were well drawn were Elizabeth and Alice, although Elizabeth was more rounded and more of a joy to hang out with. Elizabeth is from the year 1899 and is desperate to give her husband the heir he feels he deserves. She is beautiful, dedicated to her child and inspires loyalty among all. She is best described as tragic and carefree. Her husband, Edward, is the firstborn son who also becomes a tragic figure in that he feels frustrated about what is going on with his wife and why she is the way she is. He loves throwing lavish parties, building a gloomy mansion and tries to do what he can with negative results. Alice is from the year 1933 who made a terrible mistake of sleeping with a married man and for that she is sent to Fiercombe Manor for confinement. Alice is brave, impulsive, has a complex relationship with her mother, and feels connected to both the manor and its former inhabitants.
Disease affects everyone, both men and women
The story is in first and third person narratives; first from Alice and third from Elizabeth. I think I liked Elizabeth's story the most and wanted more scenes with her in it. While Alice was interesting and enjoyable, she seemed to pale when comparing her to Elizabeth. The story acts as a mystery and an old fashioned gothic tale but it deals with an issue of postpartum depression after the child's birth. It's strange, beautiful and tragic wrapped in one complex layer.
Kate Riordan is a British writer and journalist who worked for the Guardian and Time Out London. She is also the author of Birdcage Walk and is already at work on her third novel. Born in London, she now lives in the Gloucestershire countryside.
Ever since I was done reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, I've had a craving on finding a modern gothic story that strongly reminded me of Mysteries of Udolpho but without the weaknesses. I've despaired of discovering that novel until I started to read Fiercombe Manor. The story pulled me in into the dark and mysterious atmosphere, keeping the suspense alive, and it was modern and wasn't overwrought as Mysteries of Udolpho was. I do admit that I couldn't really get how the two stories connected to each other, but when you have characters such as Elizabeth Stanton as well as Alice Eveleigh living in a haunted valley it was easy for me to ignore that and to enjoy the feeling of living in a modern day Mysteries of Udolpho.
This is for TLC
Kate’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, March 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, March 18th: Bibliophilia, Please
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Monday, March 23rd: A Bookworm’s World
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Wednesday, March 25th: Dwell in Possibility
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Wednesday, April 8th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, April 9th: From the TBR Pile
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)