Rating: 5 stars
When Paula Hawkins said this book was “bloody brilliant” she was absolutely correct. This was one which I couldn’t put down, so long as I was reading it in the daytime. At nighttime, though, I had to stop reading it in the hope of getting some undisturbed sleep.
There are two parallel and overlapping stories, set many years apart, but with time not seeming to be a barrier recognised by some characters in the way that most people experience it. In the past story, Lottie is one of seven children of a hard-working rural family, whose lives are thrown upside down by the arrival one stormy night of a mysterious red-headed man calling himself James Dix. Lottie is not an ordinary child; she talks of lives before and lives to come after in a most unsettling way.
“When I was in heaven, I saw it.”
Jazzy frowned. “But only dead people go to heaven, Lottikins.”
“That’s right. I died… I did! After the bad man hit me with the knife, I did.”
In the present time, Mary and Graham Coles are moving to the country to make a fresh start, and get away from their past. But what they find instead is that a different past comes to haunt Mary in their new home. Like Lottie, she sees glimpses of the past, but in her case it’s not her past which is haunting her. Her step-daughter Ruby turns up unexpectedly to stay and also feels uneasy about her father’s new home, saying she’s seen a man outside staring at the house.
Over the course of the book the two tales collide and impact on all the lives of the characters in ways which are often deeply unsettling. Eliza, the oldest daughter of the farming family, gets slowly drawn into a web laid by James Dix, and the consequences are catastrophic. Mary Coles tries to come to terms with her own past and the past of the house in which she is now living. She and little Lottie see it all: their own lives and the lives of others, and are unable to change the course of what must happen.
This is an absolute must-read novel, which sent shivers down my spine and set me listening to every noise in the house. Read it: but not late at night.
Reviewed by Daisy