I received this book free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
Published by Harper on February 17th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
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In this haunting and richly imagined dual-narrative tale that echoes the eerie mystery of Rebecca and The Little Stranger, two women of very different eras are united by the secrets hidden within the walls of an English manor house
In 1933, naive twenty-two year-old Alice—pregnant and unmarried—is in disgrace. Her mother banishes her from London to secluded Fiercombe Manor in rural Gloucestershire, where she can hide under the watchful eye of her mother’s old friend, the housekeeper Mrs. Jelphs. The manor’s owners, the Stantons, live abroad, and with her cover story of a recently-deceased husband Alice can have her baby there before giving it up for adoption and returning home. But as Alice endures the long, hot summer at Fiercombe awaiting the baby’s birth, she senses that something is amiss with the house and its absentee owners.
Thirty years earlier, pregnant Lady Elizabeth Stanton desperately hopes for the heir her husband desires. Tormented by the memory of what happened after the birth of her first child, a daughter, she grows increasingly terrified that history will repeat itself, with devastating consequences.
After meeting Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice becomes determined to uncover the clan’s tragic past and exorcise the ghosts of this idyllic, isolated house. But nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Soon it is her turn to fear: can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley . . .
‘Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil here like spilt blood.’
In 1932, twenty-two-year-old Alice Eveleigh finds herself pregnant by a man she thought she loved but is already married to another. In an attempt to spare the family scandal, her mother sends her to stay with an old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, at Fiercombe Manor in the English countryside until the baby is born and they can give it up for adoption. With nothing to do to keep her occupied, Alice gets drawn into the curious history of the Stanton family and the previous residents of Fiercombe that seemingly disappeared without a trace. Discovering a diary kept by Elizabeth Stanton which details her pregnancy only increases her curiosity and the more she finds out about her, the more she fears she’s destined for the same fate.
‘Elizabeth. That was the first time I saw her name. What did I think, if anything? I’m sure I traced the letters with my finger; perhaps I even whispered it under my breath, the hiss of the second syllable, the sigh of the last. But that was all. My interest in her and the estate’s history was fleeting then – a faint glimmer of intrigue that glowed and then dimmed again, though not before it had lodged itself at the back of my mind, ready to be brought out later.’
This book had everything going for it: Gothic setting in the English countryside, the dual-narratives/timelines that inevitably collide with one another in the end, and even a creepy Rebecca-esque housekeeper. It was everything I should have loved, and I did, for the most part. The issue I have with most dual narratives is the fact that one is most generally always more interesting than the other, as is the case with Fiercombe. Elizabeth’s narrative set in the late 1800s centered around the common affliction that was terribly misunderstood of puerperal insanity, a form of postpartum depression. It’s always difficult reading about medical issues being misconstrued in the past resulting in far worse instances than should have occurred. But Elizabeth’s narrative was not only terribly sad but it was gripping and truly haunting. Alice’s narrative involved her trying to uncover information about Elizabeth, having formed something of a mental kinship to her from her diary since most of Elizabeth’s writings were during the time when she too was pregnant. The attempt to join the two narratives together wasn’t exactly convincing, and Alice’s fears were tame in comparison to Elizabeth’s genuine ones, although my interest in finding out what happened to both women never seemed to wane.
Fiercombe Manor kept me fully invested to the very end with atmospheric writing and a haunting past revealed piece by piece.
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