thoughts and things

The Girl In The Photograph by Kate Riordan Book Review

I was fortunate to be sent an electronic version of this book via Netgalley. The blurb intrigued me – I quite like a tale set in the past, with a past and present story – I like Kate Mosses books for example.

Here’s the blurb for you:

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth’s . . .

Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? Well I wasn’t disappointed.

I really enjoyed this book and the prologue really sets the scene, draws you in and makes you want to read on and find out more. The book is one you can easily get lost in, it’s written in a nice easy style which makes for a relaxing read.

The story is spooky, the haunting and ghostly presence is bubbling along the surface throughout – you are waiting for the moment you are spooked, but like real life, sometimes you wonder if it’s just your imagination. There is also a real feel of being haunted,not just by ghosts or the past, but also of being haunted by your own life and mistakes. I felt the characters were well written – Alice is a believable and likeable character, and we see her grow as the story progresses. Other characters in the book may have a slight stereotype to them, but that sort of makes sense, considering the book is based in the past, and it’s as if these characters haven’t really changed over the years and stuck in a time warp (I’m thinking Mrs Jelphs and Ruck)which also makes sense as it seems Fiercombe is stuck in the past altogether. You are reading, wondering, guessing what’s going to happen next – for both the past and present.

The title, the girl in the photograph, could refer to several references to photos of girls/women within the book. I felt each reference has some meaning, whether it be about the mother/daughter relationship or secrets of the past. There are a few themes I could really tease out of the book, and motherhood, postnatal depression, mother/daughter relationships, and societal pressure/condemnation are a few that spring to mind.

There were some quite chilling parts to this book, little parts of the story which sort of fit into place and make you feel a little cold as well. The ending leaves you feeling a little odd, well part of the ending, it’s uncomfortable in a way but the story concludes in a way I thought seemed appropriate. It all felt realistic and not too over the top. There were some questions not entirely answered – for example, why does the time not keep down in the valley? – and I felt there was an air of the valley being a little sinister or possessed in some way which was not really explained. I wondered whether there would be some supernatural edge to the story but this wasn’t expanded upon at all.

I love books like this, which has a slight mystery to it, and also tension and intrigue. I thought both elements of the story were well written and interwove really well. I loved the idea of Fiercombe Manor and the valley. The was the right mix of romanticism and mystery for me, it didn’t feel too much like a love story, although there is an element to that.

It was an easy read, one that I really enjoyed. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars. Well recommended.

Let me know what you thought of this book, if you’ve read it!

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