The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
|The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Alice Eveleigh, sent to Fiercombe Hall in disgrace in 1933, discovers secrets hidden since the death of a previous owner in the 1890s. A beautifully written twin-era novel in which any hint of predictability is more than made up for by characters engaging our concern, affection and a deep desire for it to turn out alright.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: January 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Alice Eveleigh is sent to Fiercombe Manor in 1933 as the result of a scandal. Back in the 1890s the Manor had been home to Elizabeth and Charles Stanton and their little girl Isabel but it doesn't feel like a house that's seen much happiness. The stones are drenched in tragedy and secrets that have remained locked away since then. What sort of secrets? Will Alice be too nosey for her own good or will the secrets remain just that, with the added threat of history repeating itself?
Kate Riordan started out as a journalist but soon realised she was becoming envious of every author that she interviewed. After seven years of this, Kate decided to do something about it so she moved to the country and started authoring. Kate's first novel Birdcage Walk was published as an e-book in 2012 but then her talent was spotted. Penguin (in the UK) and HarperCollins (for North America) picked up this, her second novel, and the rest will become history.
Talking of history (smooth segue!), Kate is not only good at writing, this novel proves she's an excellent evoker. She has a way of animating first the 1930s and then the 1890s in our minds. Alice – and indeed Elizabeth - is the victim of an unforgiving time when most girls were encouraged to only look forward to a future of marriage and effectively serving a husband. Even those with intelligence were encouraged to hide it in case it put 'the right man' off. In this setting we can understand Alice's hope, the results of which are cruelly punished by those who purportedly love her and they do, but in a totally alien way to us today. Its therefore interesting that the two heroines live four decades apart but would recognise a lot of the attitudes towards women from each other's' experiences.
Meanwhile back with Alice… Her banishment to Fiercombe Manor (the title of the novel in North America, by the way) is definitely in our favour. It's at this point that Alice shares space with Elizabeth where writing is concerned (not physical presence). From this point Alice and Elizabeth take alternating point of view chapters that Kate manipulates wondrously, adding layers to her tale.
Alice investigates what happened to Elizabeth, ignoring warnings from the mysterious, almost Mrs-Danversesque, housekeeper of danger and worse. Alice works out that she was around at the time and even served as Elizabeth's maid, but the older woman isn't exactly forthcoming in discussing the past… for some reason.
Sometimes Alice's discoveries act as teasers for what Elizabeth will eventually reveal and at other times vice versa, always ensuring we're drawn further and further in to the web of contemporary ethos and attitudes in both cases. Both the women are easy to love and empathise with while Kate shows us historical practices and ideas that will sometimes make us gasp.
A lot of the novel's unputdownability is because Kate is excellent at pacing the mysteries that Alice uncovering. Just as we answer one question, another starts to form and we're off again until the final huge shock from an author who red-herrings us like a dream.
Kate has a style of her own but it's one that fans of writers like Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier will love, oozing with twists and a full gamut of emotion. Indeed, this is a novel that makes us feel a lot of things, but predominantly gladness and a huge relief that we live now in the 21st century as opposed to either of the story's two 'thens'.
(Thank you so much Penguin for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you've enjoyed this, then we also recommend The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.