The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies

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The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: From the brittle glamour of the music hall, to the ordinary home hiding extraordinary crimes, this unusual ghost story brings London's streets to life through a multi-generational tale.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Hutchinson
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0091937034

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When Annie Sweet buys a home with her family, she feels inexplicably bonded to it from first sight. As life brings unwelcome changes for her, she decides to uncover the history of her house to provide a distraction and to understand her feelings about her home.

Taking us back to 1901, with London mourning the death of Queen Victoria and anticipating the new era with a new king, we meet Lily Painter, Inspector William George, and their families, friends and colleagues. What can William do about the sinister issues reported to him in anonymous notes? What is Lily's secret and what is making her so unhappy that she remains a presence in Annie's home?

Both Lily and George are enormously endearing in their own ways. Lily's delight with her life on stage gives us a glimpse of the old music hall life, as her happiness combines with the ordinary hopes and dreams of a being a young girl in love. Her feelings for her craft, her personal relationships and her fear of the future when things begin to go wrong, are poignant to the point that Lily seems to leap off the page and tell her story as if seated directly in front of you.

Inspector William George also comes across beautifully, with his commitment to his work, his frustrations with the inevitable failures of investigative work, and his anxieties for his loved ones making him a thoroughly likeable character.

As William and Lily's lives progress, they begin to intertwine in ways that they could never have imagined – as they are both profoundly affected by the quiet crimes being committed just a couple of miles up the road. The next generations are portrayed within the context of both Lily and William's physical and emotional inheritance, enabling the reader to feel connected with every new character that is introduced.

Moving all the way from the Edwardian era to the modern age with a key stop at World War Two and an ill-fated romance, Caitlin Davies demonstrates her descriptive skills to fantastic standards. The novel feels photographic in the way it brings London to life. North Londoners in particular will delight at familiar images relating back to the early 20th century.

The parts of the novel that are set in the present day provide a satisfying foil to the history it also contains. Davies has no trouble combining the stories, and the novel unfolds with subtlety and smoothness, switching you between tales as soon as you feel the need to begin answering questions from a different period. This is just one reason why the novel is such a joy to read.

Overall, this is a highly skilful combination of story, history, character and fact and provides all the perfect escapism one could wish for from a novel.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.


The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Buy The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies at

Buy The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies at


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