By Tiffany Murray
Rating: 3&1/2 Stars
‘Easter 1955. As Lilia Sugar scrapes the ice from the inside of the windows and the rust from the locks in Sugar Hall, she knows there are pasts she cannot erase. On the very edge of the English/Welsh border, the red gardens of Sugar Hall hold a secret, and as Britain prepares for its last hanging, Lilia and her children must confront a history that has been buried but not forgotten.
Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray…’
I received this book from Seren in return for an honest review. What follows is my own opinion.
I need to explain from the start that I’m not really one for the horror genre. This is more in relation to films than anything else, as I have a deep appreciation for gothic literature. But, in horror films, I can generally spot the plot, I get bored easily and occasionally fall back on my traditional failsafe of falling asleep 5 minutes in. I was a teenage sleepover nightmare.
The fact that this book passed this test should probably speak for itself. Despite this not being my normal genre, I was attracted to the premise of the book as I do enjoy a good ghost story. I was looking for something Halloween-appropriate and I was not disappointed.
The writing is beautiful and lyrical, straddling the boundary between the actual and the imaginary as we inhabit Dieter’s strange wasteland world; whether amongst the bombed out buildings in his childhood London or the spectral ruins of his ancestral home.
I really enjoyed the elements of Lilia’s story that we glimpsed and I would have liked to see more of her. She was the character I connected with most aside from Dieter and I felt really sorry for how trapped she was throughout the poem. I enjoyed watching her try to fit into the countryside and to make her own way under the shadow of her husband’s family.
I also enjoyed some of the side characters – particularly Dieter’s gang back in London. But I found Lilia’s love interests less than engaging, John was ok I suppose but Alex was actually quite annoying. Lilia’s daughter is also a bit of a brat and I felt sorry for her mother!
Unfortunately, things are quite confusing in some of the beginning sections -particularly in relation to the ghost’s first appearance – and they got very loose at the end. I have to admit that I felt quite let down at the end.
But possibly the best thing about this book is Sugar Hall itself. Murray describes the building in incredibly evocative detail, the paintings, the peeling walls and of course – the moths.