*** From the author of the immensely popular Black Rabbit Hall, comes Eve Chase’s new novel The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde ***
From the present day . . .
Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it’s the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate.
to the fifties . . .
When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heatwave of ’59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter Audrey five years before.
The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey’s vanishing – until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?
Step back in time for a richly evocative mystery, where the beauty of a Cotswolds summer is vividly contrasted with the violence which shatters it.
Published 13th July 2017 by Penguin (UK)
If you follow me on social media then there’s a good chance you’ve heard me shouting my love for this book over the last couple of days. I make no apologies – I adored it. You know that feeling when you settle down with a book and immediately know you’re going to love it? The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde is one of those books and I savoured every single word.
The book is told in two, alternating time frames. Jessie in the present day is the second wife to a man who lost his wife in tragic circumstances and step mother to resentful and distant Bella. She’s never felt good enough as a replacement for Bella’s mother but hopes a move to the country will cement them as a family and banish the ghosts of the past. Bewitched by the stunning but derelict Applecote Manor, Jessie is convinced this is the place to bring them all together. But Applecote Manor has ghosts of it’s own…
The second time frame is 1959. Margot Wilde and her three sisters have been sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle at Applecote. The girls are intent on enjoying one last, glorious summer together before the eldest, Flora, leaves for Paris. But a sadness hangs over Applecote, in the memory of Audrey Wilde – the sisters beloved cousin who vanished mysteriously several years ago.
The alternating chapters of past and present compliment each other so well in this book. In the present, both Jessie and Bella are struggling to lay the ghost of her mother to rest, while in the past it’s the conspicuous absence of Audrey who haunts the Wilde sisters. The theme of loss and grief holding back and impacting the living runs throughout both periods, as does the need to let go to allow moving on. There’s also a strong sense of coming of age in both era’s as well. Margot, ever overshadowed by her vivacious sisters struggles with her own identity, while Bella is caught up in grief at the loss of her mother and unable to forgive Jessie for taking her place. Despite there being sixty years between them, both girls are mesmerised by the missing Audrey and what happened to her.
The mystery surrounding Audrey is fascinating and had me gripped, I desperately wanted to know what had happened to her. Eve Chase’s beautifully, descriptive writing is so evocative that I could feel the heat and atmosphere of the scorching 1959 summer, almost see the haze of the sun and feel the excitement and nervous tension in the air as the Wilde sisters attempt to make this the summer of their lives, while the secrets and fate of their cousin hangs over them oppressively. In the present, there’s a tangibly cold, eerie and empty feeling to the house as Jessie tries to bring it back to life, with the suggestion of secrets being revealed around every corner.
The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde is quite simply, stunning. It has that deliciously gothic vibe of family secrets with a haunting house at it’s center. It envolopes you in beautiful prose and transports you completely to a different time, while the mystery of what happened to Audrey will keep you gripped. I was captivated by this book, snatching any chance I could to loose myself in it. One of my favourite books this year, I can’t recommend it enough and will continue to do so to everyone I know!
(I read an advance ecopy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)