editor's choice





We’ve said on several occasions how much we like a good historical novel, and ones paying a nod to the Gothic tradition are of particular interest: Rhiannon Ward (aka crime writer Sarah Ward) ticks both these boxes in the beautifully produced The Quickening.

Set in 1925, in a post-World War I world, the plot focuses on Clewer Hall, a grand Sussex house, now past its glory, but once famous for a séance which took place there in the late nineteenth century; one which the family have chosen to recreate almost thirty years later. It’s to Clewer that Louise Drew is sent, commissioned to take photographs of the house. Louise is unusual, a pregnant woman with a career in the 1920s, who is seeking to move on from her tragic past, the deaths of her first husband and children to Spanish influenza just a few years before.

From the beginning we’re aware of how uncomfortable Louise finds the house, of the mysteries and secrets it holds, yet to be revealed. Ward evokes its creepiness well, making Clewer Hall a character almost in itself, full of hidden corners and dark places that make us watchful as the events unfold.

But while The Quickening is full of Gothic suspense, with enough plot threads to more than sustain our interest, it’s also a book about loss and survival, of making the best of life after the very worst that can be imagined has happened. It’s a very good read indeed, engrossing, interesting, gripping.

Highly recommended.


Rhiannon Ward | The Quickening | 20 August 2020 | Trapeze | hb | £16.99

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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Alex Layt, publicity manager at Orion, and to the publisher for sending us a review copy: a very beautiful edition. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please read the other reviews on the book tour.

Also of interest:Michael Crummey’s tale of innocence‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; Rowan Coleman’s nod to Gothic literature‘; ‘Cynthia Jefferies’ rollicking great adventure’ ; ‘The Story Keeper: Anna Mazzoli’s Gothic tale’‘; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘The not so invisible woman: I50 in their own words‘; ‘The word for freedom: standing up for women everywhere’; ‘’Lisa Ko’s The Leavers’; How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original Penguin Ten’; ‘Book covers we love – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday’.

This review is © 2020 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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