The Glass House by Eve Chase

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The Glass House by Eve Chase

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A top class combination of mystery and historical fiction. Hard to put down and very satisfying. Great stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2020
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1405946179

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Rita lost both her parents in a car crash when she was just six years old: since then she's always craved a family. She'd lived with her grandmother in Torquay until she got a job as a nanny with the Harrington family in London. Soon her engagement to Fred, a Torquay butcher, fell through and the Harringtons became her family. In 1971, after a fire at the London house, Jeannie Harrington, her children, 13-year-old Hera and 6-year-old Teddy, along with Rita went to the family's house in the Forest of Dean. It wasn't quite dilapidated, but it certainly wasn't the same standard as the London house had been before the fire.

Walter Harrington threatened Rita: if she didn't report back to him about his wife's state of mind and actions, whilst they were at Foxcote Manor he'd sack her and employ someone who was more amenable. For herself, Rita would probably have gone rather than be bullied into doing what she knew was morally wrong, but she was close to Hera and Teddy and knew that Jeannie didn't have it in her to look after them properly. Jeannie was recovering from the loss of her baby a few months earlier and her state of mind was suspect.

There's been another man in the picture for a long time. Don Armstrong had been Walter's best friend, but he seemed to have transferred his affections to Jeannie - and she to him. Don didn't care whom he hurt and at Foxcote Manor the affair was blatant. Then Hera found a baby abandoned in the woods and for the summer the family would treat it as their own, until the night of the shooting.

In the present day, Sylvie is moving her possessions into a small flat. She's separated from her husband, Steve, but she hopes that for the sake of their daughter, Annie, they can remain on reasonable terms. Annie's due to go to Cambridge to read maths. Well, that was the plan until she told Sylvie about the baby... And Sylvie's mother had an accident that left her in a coma.

This is a cracker of a book. When I started reading I simply wasn't going to be away from it for too long and I finished it in just over twenty-four hours. Rita is a superb character. The children call her 'Big Rita' and at one point she's described as devoted as a Great Dane. That sums her up perfectly. They're not her children, but she loves them as though they are. She's always been conscious of her size and tries to minimise it - and hide the scars from that car crash. Even with Fred she never felt completely relaxed about who she was and that doesn't change until she meets local woodsman, Robbie Rigby.

We hear Rita and Sylvie's stories and gradually we see them converge, but even as they do I really couldn't see how they were going to work out to my satisfaction, but they do: we're safe in the hands of a very skilled author and I turned the final page with a feeling of satisfaction and just a small sigh of regret that the book was finished. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another story about a nanny, we can recommend Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins. If The Glass House appeals to you, I can recommend one of my favourite books from this genre: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.

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