The History Room by Eliza Graham

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The History Room by Eliza Graham

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: Meredith’s marriage is falling apart. She returns to the school that lay at the heart of her childhood, where her father is still headmaster, and takes up a teaching post there in the hope of finding solace. But her fragile peace is shattered by a sinister prank played in the history room…
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 325 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Pan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0330509275

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The novel begins with a key scene from Meredith’s childhood and then springs forward to the present day and the incident in the history room. The prank sets the tone for the whole novel – sinister in many subtle ways and having several layers of meaning. The cast assemble around the fall out from the prank and each character is beautifully drawn. Hugh, Meredith’s husband, is suffering the results of horrors he experienced in Helmand. Meredith’s immediate family are also traumatised by the death of her mother. In this highly charged atmosphere, it’s hard to know whether they are taking the prank too seriously or if it does indeed imply worrying occurrences within the school. Add in the presence of strangers in the form of new pupils and new staff, and before long even the most long-held relationships begin to suffer as a result of all the suspicions that are brought out by the prank.

Graham has woven a terrific mystery with the darkness of the human psyche at its centre. Using every possible tool to dissect the mysteries of the mind, the novel is a beautiful balance of narrative, dialogue and description and every word is pertinent. She has mastered the art of writing in a rich, full fashion without wasting one word. It would be inaccurate to call her writing economical because it would not do justice to her smooth style and way of showing, rather than telling, the relevance of everything she tells us. The book’s examination of the bonds of trust and how easily they can alter is truly touching.

Her descriptions of the beautiful old boarding school and its lavish surroundings, the Downs and even the weather are all welcome and none of it is superfluous. The sense of place we gain from her writing is crucial; the school is rather like a character in the story, and it’s important to understand how that relationship sits with all the others. Although her characters are fleshed out fully, we are not told anything that we don’t need to know. The fluidity of her writing, as well as the fascinating tale itself, makes this a real page turner. The pacing of her exposition is absolutely spot on and there are moments when you think it will nearly be over, but it isn’t, and it’s a relief that it isn’t because it was ultimately a shame to reach the end of such a terrific book.

A fantastic summer read which will please readers of all types of fiction.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

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Buy The History Room by Eliza Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The History Room by Eliza Graham at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The History Room by Eliza Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The History Room by Eliza Graham at


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