The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas
|The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A mystery with its roots in the nineteenth century threatens the inhabitants of a house in modern London. It's gripping and utterly compelling. Stephanie Elmas popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 280||Date: September 2013|
|Publisher: Amazon Media|
|External links: Author's website|
In modern-day London Serena is the new nanny to the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue. She's aware that there's something unsettling about the house and the family who live there, but Serena was escaping the ghosts of her traumatic childhood when she took the job and it was easy to fall into the relaxed way of life and the pleasure of her room at the top of the house with a view over the rooftops. Her charge - four-year-old Beth - is a real treasure. But Serena's inquisitive and can't help wondering about the subtle air of menace in the street. Some of the relationships between the members of the household are puzzling and it soon becomes obvious that the family is trying to hide something from her. And where is number 34 Marguerite Avenue?
In 1892 Miranda Whitestone held a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue and can do nothing about her neighbour's obvious seduction of her husband. Lucinda Eden is glamorous, wayward and far more to Tristan Whitestone's taste than the clergyman's daughter he'd married. He was a man with a past and not one to trouble with niceties. The dinner party - and the affair between Whitestone and Lucinda Eden which followed - would echo down the years.
This book hasn't been written, it's been crafted. As you read you'll see events mirror each other across the centuries, relationships echo back and forth and situations pull your mind away to what happened many years before, to the point where you're in neither one century nor the other but suspended where time - even place - has little meaning. It takes a great deal of skill to pull this off successfully and Stephanie Elmas creates an atmosphere of genuine horror behind the facade of a tranquil London street.
She's in complete control of her main characters and I loved the way that Miranda Whitestone develops as a person, despite her perverted, philandering husband. There were several times when I could have cheered for her. You might need to suspend disbelief with regard to Beth who is more than precocious - but do it for the sake of the story. If I had to quibble about the characterisation it's that I was still finding it difficult to differentiate between some of the minor players quite late in the plot, but Elmas is a debut author marshalling a large cast over two time frames. It's me being picky.
It's a big read, in all senses. There's many hours of pleasure to be had and I found myself being pulled along, never unwillingly, but certain that I needed to find out what happened. I was always aware that there would need to be some link between the events other than a family relationship which was more than a century old, but the ending is stunning and very well done.
I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
You can read more about Stephanie Elmas here.
Stephanie Elmas was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas at Amazon.com.
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