On Wednesday this week I go into hospital for my second hip replacement, 5 months after the first. I’m dreading the process and yet also impatient to have both over and done with. Depending on how things go, I may, or may not, be around on my blog for a bit.
I’m hoping to feel well enough during the next few weeks to get some writing done, as I feel rather starved creatively, having just handed in my commissioned equestrian text book and confirmed to myself that I far prefer writing fiction!
This week, I have another book review for Anne Glenconner’s fiction – her second novel, although this one is even more based in real events than the last, making it a curious mixture of autobiography and imagination.
Once again, I enjoyed her work.
January 1950. Lady Anne Coke, daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, is in Scunthorpe on a business trip when she is called home after a sudden death in the family. She returns to Holkham Hall to discover a mystery: her beloved grandfather has been found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a valuable piece of jewellery in his pocket. No one can find a cause of death, and some even suspect foul play from the ghost who supposedly haunts the house. But Anne’s suspicions are aroused; she grew close to her grandfather when they lived together during the war and she is determined to discover the truth.
During World War II, Holkham Hall was an army base with large sections out of bounds, and 11-year-old Anne was in the care of a new governess, whom she hated and believed to be deceitful. Although she had been told to stay away from certain parts of the house, Anne used the secret passageways and the cellars to move around unnoticed. And something she saw then could unlock the mystery of her grandfather’s death now …
Full of rich historical detail, this is a gripping novel of wartime secrets, intrigue and deceit.
My reviewA Haunting at Holkham by Anne Glenconner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lady Anne Coke is a remarkable young woman who, despite being the Earl of Leicester’s granddaughter, works as a travelling sales rep for the family pottery run by her mother and sister (all true!). When her grandfather dies suddenly, and in slightly mysterious circumstances, she must return home and help her family pick up the pieces. Being of a curious nature, and because her father won’t countenance the scandal that would arise by getting the police involved, Anne takes it upon herself to dig into the curious events surrounding the unexpected death.
This entire story is a fictionalised version of Lady Anne’s real life, drawing by turns on her youth in post war austerity, and her childhood during World War 2. Told in alternating sections of these two time periods, the somewhat shocking events of Anne’s childhood, when she was abused by a sadistic governess, unfold gradually as the memories she has long buried crawl back to the surface. At the climax of the story, she discovers that the key to the puzzle of her grandfather’s death is actually locked away inside her own head.
While a few totally fictional characters have been added, Lady Anne uses her family’s real names, and much of her own real experiences to bring authenticity to the fictional riddle. Details of how her class of family raised their children, and ran their estates, are all genuine, adding historical interest to a story that is a little slow to develop, and written in Lady Anne’s distinctive older, but none-the-less charming, style.
A truly unusual fusion of reality and fiction, this latest book by the former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret is an engrossing read which would appeal to lovers of Downton Abbey and the like.
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