Thursday 21 December 2017

Book Review: The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase.

Product details:
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Hardcover, 336 pages
Release date: July 13th 2017
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source: Purchased.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

 A darkly evocative tale of sisters and secrets, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, a multi-layered, decades-spanning mystery told in the gothic tradition, will keep readers hooked from start to finish.

Jesse Tucker knows she should be happy with her lot. After all, she’s got it all: the house, the husband and the adorable baby girl. Trouble is, Jesse’s house, along with her husband, used to belong to someone else, a fact her step-daughter Bella, who views Jesse as nothing more than an insult to her mother’s memory, reminds her of Every. Single. Day.  It’s not only that: lately the hectic pace of London life Jesse used to so love as a twenty-something singleton has been getting her down.  As a new mum, Jesse is tired: tired of the constant buzz, not to mention the increasing crime rates, of city life; tired of time spent alone while Will is increasingly stuck in the office; tired of Bella and the fact that her grief has worryingly begun to manifest itself in violent outbursts. Jesse knows that her family needs a change of pace and a change of scenery. Deciding that a move to the countryside will do everyone the world of good, Jesse begins the search for the perfect rural idyll. 

Jesse finds that rural idyll in Applecote Manor. Well, that’s stretching things a bit: Applecote Manor is anything but idyllic, rather it is a slightly dilapidated and extremely draughty old pile, but for Jesse, it is everything she ever wanted. Jesse soon discovers that Applecote Manor also has something of a dark past – but that’s something Jesse would rather ignore. However, when Bella hears of the story of Audrey Wilde, a twelve-year-old girl who went missing from the house over fifty years before, she’s all ears, if only because the very mention of the disappearance of Audrey Wilde seems to make her step-mother uncomfortable. As Bella sets about investigating Audrey’s disappearance, she unearths a heart-shaped button, of the type often found on dresses worn by girls of Audrey’s age.  Then, there’s the mysterious old woman often seen lurking around the grounds of the old house. Could it be that Applecote Manor holds the answers to the mysterious disappearance of Audrey Wilde? 

Back in the summer of 1959,  Margot and her sisters have been sent to stay with their aunt and uncle at Applecote Manor, where they haven’t visited since the disappearance of their cousin, Audrey, several years before. Since then, Audrey’s parents have buried themselves in grief, so much so that their Aunt Sybil barely ever leaves the house. However, the arrival of fifteen-year-old Margot, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her cousin Audrey, sparks something in Sybil, who soon singles Margot out for special treatment. At first, Margot, who has lived her whole life in the shadow of her beautiful older sister Flora, is happy to play along as her aunt dresses her in replicas of Audrey’s clothes. This wears thin after a while, and Margot begins to find her aunt’s behaviour slightly unsettling. She may look like Audrey, but surely Aunt Sybil knows that Margot isn’t a replacement for her missing daughter. After all, Margot has a mother of her own, though strangely she hasn’t heard from her in a while…

As Bella searches for clues in the present day, Margot and her sisters find they are distracted by the arrival of two boys, one of whom can’t take his eyes off Margot, even though he claims to be smitten with her sister, Flora. As tensions rise and rivalry flares between the sisters, past secrets come to light in a night that will change Margot’s life forever.

A wonderfully woven coming-of-age mystery with sparkling prose throughout, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is the kind of book that begs to be read by an open fire on a cold winter’s night. A wholly absorbing read, this one is perfect for fans of Kate Morton’s novels and Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.

Published as The Wildling Sisters in the US

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