I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for The Quickening. Huge congratulations to Rhiannon and the lovely people at Trapeze for this fabulous publication, and thank you for inviting me to be part of it.
Author(s): Rhiannon Ward
Publication date: 20th August 2020
An infamous seance. A house burdened by grief. A secret that can no longer stay buried.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex to photograph the contents of the house for auction. Desperate for money after falling on hard times, she accepts the commission.
On arrival, she learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, the consequences of which still haunt the family. Before the Clewer’s leave England for good, the lady of the house has asked those who attended the original séance to recreate the evening. Louisa soon becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house, unravelling the longheld secrets of what happened that night thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with Clewer Hall’s.
I have a minor confession to make – I did leave it slightly late to read The Quickening ready for this blog tour. However, once I started it, it was no effort – I absolutely demolished it. It’s so readable it’s like a pipe of Pringles.
Aside from it’s readability, it was so refreshing to read a book set between World War I and World War II. I have to admit that I’ve read too much World War II fiction in the past, and this period between the two wars is both fascinating and critical. The Quickening takes us to a place where many men have been killed and those who have returned from war have found women doing their jobs. Not only have they done their jobs and done them well – but they want to keep working! Imagine!
Our protagonist, Louisa, is treading a line between wanting stability with a family and wanting to do something she is passionate about – photography – which is how she ends up in Clewer Hall. But there are skeletons in the closets and ghosts in the garden who won’t leave her be.
Ward’s writing is clever when it comes to the mysteries of the Clewer family and how their lives have interwoven over thirty years. I particularly enjoyed the red herrings that made me think I’d worked out what was going on before revealing themselves to be completely false. Her descriptions of the decaying home during a bitter winter made the story all the more absorbing and had me craving crackling fires and blankets.
There is significance in this book in that it’s not ‘just’ a gothic horror story. It’s about grief and loss and the lasting impact it can have on someone. We all experience loss both individually and collectively, and Ward takes us to be brutalest depths of despair, particularly after World War I when so many families lost more than one child or all of their children.
I only have one minor criticism and that there is significance put upon Louisa ending up at Clewer Hall (rather than any other photographer) and that did not come together for me at the end. I feel like it is more likely that I missed something and it is very minor, but it did mean I didn’t feel quite as satisfied at the end as I had hoped.
That being said, The Quickening is a great read, and as the weather starts to cool, I would highly recommend settling in on a cold Autumn or Winter night and paying a visit to Clewer Hall.
Many thanks to Trapeze and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can support your local bookshop by buying The Quickening through them directly, or via Hive
What do you think of The Quickening? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,