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  ‘Very ancient buildings have a way of talking to you … So many secrets waiting to be uncovered.’

‘I’ve always thought that, too,’ I say. ‘Actually, I’ve always talked to Ponden since I was little; it seems impolite not to.’ ”

– Tru Heaton Jones discussing Ponden Hall with Marcus Ellis

 

Rowan Coleman’s The Girl at the Window is the kind of book we love – beautifully written, tightly plotted and one that gives more than a nod to Gothic literature and Old Familiar classic romance–historical romance writers such as Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

As the book opens, Trudy Heaton Jones receives the news that beloved husband Abe has been involved in a plane crash in South America. Eight months on, grief-stricken and broke, Tru takes her young son, Will, back to her childhood home on the Yorkshire moors, Ponden Hall. It’s a bitter-sweet reunion: she’s estranged from her mother, who has a tongue that’s a ‘local legend’, and she’s missed her home, even though she hasn’t returned in sixteen years. Tru is a Heaton through and through though and the house remembers her, her reconnection with it immediate. The Hall also embraces Will, ensnaring him its secrets and past.

Coleman seamlessly blends fact, fiction and local myth into a tightknit tapestry of the past, the near past, as seen through Abe and Tru’s love story, and the present, involving Tru, Will, ‘Ma’ and Marcus, the man who’s come advise on the hall’s restoration.

The Brontë connection to Ponden Hall is strong and well-documented, Haworth situated nearby. The Heaton family seat, Ponden was reputed to have one of the finest libraries in West Yorkshire, which the Brontës, especially Emily and Branwell, regularly visited, sometimes staying over. The Hall is believed to be the inspiration for the Lintons’ home in Emily’s Wuthering Heights and for Anne’s Wildfell Hall. The ‘gytrash’, a spirit of local legend, which often takes the form of a black dog, is believed to haunt Ponden Hall and appears in a story by Branwell and in Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Coleman weaves the Brontës and local lore into the story authentically and, it must be said, rather wonderfully.

The Girl at the Window is gorgeous; the kind of book you read in one sitting, regretting that fact with every page turned, never really wanting to reach the end.

 

The Girl at the Window | Rowan Coleman | Ebury | 8 August 2019 | paperback original | £7.99 |

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Acknowledgements: Book text quotes © Rowan Coleman 2019. Many thanks to Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

 

Also of interest:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’;‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘Louise Voss’ The Old You‘; ‘Stephanie Butland, bringing women into focus‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘Helga Flatland’s study of A Modern Family’;  ‘Blood Orange’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love); ‘Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘.

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.

 

 

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