Everyone remembers the day the girls went missing.
May Day 1912, a day that haunts Missensham. The day two girls disappeared. The day the girls were murdered.
Iris Caldwell and Nell Ryland were never meant to be friends. From two very different backgrounds, one the heir to the Caldwell estate, the other a humble vicar’s daughter. Both have their secrets, both have their pasts, but they each find solace with one another and soon their futures become irrevocably intertwined.
Now, many years later, old footage has emerged which shows that Iris Caldwell may not have died on that spring morning. The village must work out what happened the day the girls went missing…
I loved this story.
It is a very complex story, despite being quite forward in the unfolding of the events. There’s a mystery at its heart, and yet it isn’t a mystery in the true sense of the narrative genre. And even if it isn’t a ghost story, it still has that surreal atmosphere to it.
It’s a story with many souls, I could say. It is set in 1937, but also in 1912 when a terrible event happened that nobody could ever truly explain. Two girls disappeared the same day, though only the disappearance of beautiful Iris, Lord Howard’s daughter, is remembered. Nobody ever remembers plain-looking Nell, Iris’s maiden. But this is her story as she tells it and as her mother, Agnes, understands it.
It’s a story of discovery, and not just of mystery solving. There are many epiphanies here. Characters who slowly understand each others and themselves. There are bravery and sorrow and painful truths.
There’s also a great historical setting, or should I say two, since the 25 years that separate one plotline from the other separate two different worlds and realities.
I especially love the way the experience of women – their struggle for equality and the way that equality was often denied – are woven into the plot seamlessly, so that we absorb it as part of the events rather than as information we are given.
All the characters are so real. They all have something special, something unique to their personality. They all have a quirk that is part of that surreal atmosphere and partly creates it. And still, they are undoubtedly real. They are characters who might be people I meet every day.
It is truly a great story. Read it!
The Lost Girls
I turned to look out the window once more. The church bell was ringing but I could not count the hour for I had not heard the first chime.
On the far side of the village green, people were mingling around the tables and sitting on the grass. Little girls in white dresses were running between picnic rugs and, on one head, a crown of flowers. The ribbons of the maypole were now loose and blowing in the breeze.
I turned away from the festivities and we sat in silence but for the muted sound of laughter and the constant clang of the church bell.
‘I see her,’ I said, after a while. ‘Sometimes I see Nell.’
‘I know,’ he said, his voice now softer.
‘How do you know?’ I asked.
‘The chair by the window has always been draped with her green shawl,’ he said. ‘Just as if she had left it there and would return for it. You forbid anyone from using that chair as if she still occupies it. I often see you looking at that chair as if Nell was another voice in our conversation.’
‘I know what you are thinking,’ I said. ‘I know that you think me a mad old woman, but I do know that the Nell I see is not real. I know she is in my head, it is not a ghost that I see.’
He reached forward again and put his hand on mine. ‘You don’t need to explain, Mrs Ryland.’
‘Please call me Agnes again,’ I said. ‘It is too strange when you do not.’
‘Yes, Agnes,’ he said, then added, ‘and now after all these years you have started saying her name again. Can we now talk of Nell once more and call her by her name?’ He looked to the chair by the window again. ‘We are both speaking of her now.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘For now I think that the only way I can remember he properly is by speaking of her.’
The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy. It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursday and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.