I’ve been thinking about time slip novels ever since April’s AYSC exclusive with the lovely Kate Morton. It was wonderful to explore Kate’s fascination with having one foot in the past and one in the present as she weaves her intricate stories which we know you all love as we’ve been inundated with messages. I can’t tell which one of Kate’s seven novels I’ve liked the most but what I can tell you is that Homecoming, her latest, is every bit as compelling and spellbinding with its tale of a cold case brought to life. You can pre-order a special edition sprayed edge copy of Homecoming here.
If forgotten houses, mysteries and secrets from the past are your first love when it comes to books then I’ve scoured the shelves to bring you a few more bookish suggestions which I hope will take you on a time travelling journey of your own.
Bringing a touch of the gothic in a story that spans five centuries, Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst had me in its grip from the very beginning. In a lost corner of the Fens, in Edwardian Suffolk, where the wildness and whispering reeds harbour secrets from the past, Wake’s End, a large manor house stands alone. Motherless and ruled by a repressive father, Maud is a lonely child seeking solace in the landscape surrounding her. When Maud’s father finds a painted medieval devil in a nearby graveyard, secrets are unleashed and the demons from her father’s past are awakened. How will Maud battle against it all? Can she survive the age-old legends of her beloved fen in a world haunted by witchcraft? Exploring the boundaries between real and supernatural, Wakenhyrst is filled with obsession, murder and one girl’s longing to be set free in a perfect time travelling dark thriller.
Crossing the pond for my next recommendation, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is the story of siblings, their childhood home and a past that won’t let them go – it was nominated for Women’s Prize in 2020. When Cyril Conroy buys the Dutch House, an extraordinary mansion in the Philadelphia suburbs, as a surprise for his wife, he never expects that it will lead to the unravelling of family life. Growing up in the Dutch House with an absent mother and distant father, Danny and Maeve are rooted in their sibling relationship, only able to be themselves fully when they are together. The arrival of Andrea, their new stepmother, leaves them exiled from their home and thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from. It is the moment in which their future will be defined by both past and present and their apparently unshakeable sibling bond will be tested. The Dutch House speaks of the powerful bonds of place and time which draw us together and pull us apart – I was new to Ann Patchett beforeI read The Dutch House and its beautifully, crafted story of love and loss has really stayed with me.
If there’s one book that draws me back time and time again with its country house secrets and that unmistakeable hold which the past exerts on the present, it’s Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I know it will be a book which you’re probably all very familiar with, either because it’s already a favourite or because the film starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins is a bewitchingly good adaptation of this fabulous novel. However, it just had to be included here. If you’ve seen the film but haven’t read it, I urge you to pick it up at once as Ishiguro is a master of his craft. In the summer of 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, takes off on a motoring trip through the West Country. His six-day journey becomes a meditation on purpose and the meaning of life as well as a doorway into the past for the reader – a past which reveals an unrealised love between Stevens and Miss Kenton, a former housekeeper at Darlington Hall and growing tension facing an interwar England against the rise of fascism. Lost causes, lost loves, life upstairs and downstairs, class and English country house grandeur – The Remains of the Day is a contemporary classic.
The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans begins at Nightingale House, the beloved home of the Horner family designed to inspire happiness. It’s 1919 and Liddy Horner discovers her husband, world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting, The Garden of Lost and Found, days before his sudden death. Capturing a moment of sheer bliss, Ned had painted their children playing in the garden on a perfect day before their world came tumbling down. Years later when Juliet, Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter, receives the key for Nightingale House, a door to a forgotten world is thrown open. What was it that shattered their Eden? The house holds its secrets close as Juliet seeks answers.
As you know I always like to flag something new and a little special before it hits the shelves. This month’s pre-order recommendation is Polly Crosby’s Vita and the Birds. It transported me back to growing up in and around Walberswick and the gorgeous landscape of the Suffolk coast-and I was engrossed in all its secrets and twists and turns. Out on 25th May, it’s both the story of Eve Blakeney, a young woman revisiting the coastal Suffolk town of her childhood summers, and Lady Vita Goldsborough, who lives in the shadow of controlling brother Aubrey. Linked by a shattering secret involving a towering glass building known by locals as the Cathedral of the Marshes, we follow their stories echoed and connected through the decades which separate them. Trapped and isolated, Vita takes solace in watching the birds which fly over the marshes until she meets local artist Dodie and is forced to keep her new friendship a secret. Grieving for her mother and wanting to make sense of her life, Eve is haunted by her past and the night she broke into the dilapidated cathedral as a teenager. Only now, years later, does she come to understand how she and her family are linked to that night, and to Vita’s story, in a beautiful and terrible way that will change her own life forever. Derelict buildings, layered stories and a tangled web of secrets and lies spanning generations – Vita and the Birds has it all. Published by HQ Stories, you can pre-order Vita and the Birds here.
An enormous thank you to our fantastic sponsors for this month Woolroom and Lyma . Their new “Clean Sleeping is the New Clean Eating” campaign is utterly fabulous. I can’t believe the difference in our sleep since we started using Woolroom’s pure wool bedding. It is just the right weight and keeps you at the perfect temperature- clever old sheep! I think I might already be a bit in love with Lyma as well – other than all the glowing reviews, after just a few days I think I am actually sleeping more deeply. This is very clever magic. Thank you Woolroom and Lyma .