This is the seventh book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge.
by Kim Wilkins
HarperCollins, 2000, ISBN: 073226797 8
THIS is the third novel by Brisbane’s Kim Wilkins, one I’ve criminally and unaccountably not read until now. It’s interesting to look back at this, seeing how accomplished she was even back then: the prose is fairly tight, the narrative spot on, the characters engaging.
The story is told in two time lines, one in 1790s England and the other contemporary. In the past, a pair of daring lovers move into a cottage in a village near, and modelled on, it would appear, Whitby, there to encounter some seriously unnatural goings on in the suitably Gothic basement of the church. In the modern era, Aussie cellist Maisie Fielding journeys to the same cottage in the wake of her grandmother’s death, to find that those goings on are still, ahem, going on.
The setting lends itself wonderfully to the creeping dread: coastal storms, winter snow and isolation, and a village that keeps its secrets close and viciously guarded.
Maisie is going through a rough time personally, filled with doubt about her relationship with her opera singer lover Adrian, at sixes and sevens with her overbearing mother and ineffectual father; a few months sifting through her grandmother’s life — a life she never got to know, her mother and grandmother not having got on — seems like just the ticket for getting her head straight.
But there’s the diary left by Georgette, and there’s her grandmother’s legacy, the attractive gypsy boy down the road and the not small matter of Maisie’s hidden psychic power to contend with. This is no simple holiday … especially when the spooky strangers come a’knocking and Maisie is left to feel very unwelcome indeed.
Told from several points of view, the Aurealis Award-winning story is a compelling jigsaw: Georgette sets the scene, Adrian adds domestic pressure, the unlikely villain offers tension as plans collide … and it all comes together as Maisie faces both her past and her future against a very old magic indeed.
While there are a couple of niggling elements in the plot — the way in which Georgette’s diary is compiled, the absence of a possible ally — they are more than overshadowed by the bold denouement that makes this a truly memorable read.
Previous Challenge reviews:
- Sea Hearts, by Margo Lanagan, fantasy.
- Burn Bright, by Marianne de Pierres, fantasy.
- The Courier’s New Bicycle, by Kim Westwood, fantasy.
- The Road, by Catherine Jinks, horror
- The Shattered City, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, fantasy.
- Frantic, by Katherine Howell, crime.