**We were gifted an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own**
What can I say, it’s been a while and I can only profusely apologise for the lack of new content over the last few months. It’s been a crazy time and with the summer holidays thrown in for good measure I’m just glad at this point to have survived reasonably unscathed! Lucky for you though I’m back and have a book review for my favourite author’s newly (recently) released new offering, The Beloved Girls to share with you. If you’ve read some of my previous reviews you will know I have been an avid fan of Harriet Evans for many years and I’m always eager to get my hands on anything new she releases, so was thrilled to be sent a stunning ARC copy for review. Thank you to Headline for gifting me a copy and I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on Harriet’s new book.
About The Book
‘It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’
Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?
The answer lies buried in the past.
It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. And she and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .
‘We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.’
As with a lot of Harriet’s book’s it’s really difficult to try and summarise the synopsis without spoilers as they are always so complexly written, but I am going to give it a shot with this one….!
Catherine has it all but her past is rapidly catching up with her and she is beginning to wonder if she is slowly losing her mind as she’s seeing ‘ghosts’ she knows cannot be real. She knows the secrets she has buried deep within are vying to escape and understands they will hurt the ones she holds dear so there’s only one choice she can make……to leave.
Years before deep in the West Country Janey arrives to stay with the Hunter family after the death of her Father. Having only visited once before as a child her memories of the family are somewhat rose tinted, so when she arrives to a luke-warm reception from ‘Kitty’ the daughter who she’d previously thought of as a friend it signals the start of a mysterious summer that she will always remember.
The Hunter family focus each and every summer is firmly on the success of The Ceremony, an almost ‘cult-like’ harvesting of honey from the bees that reside in a nearby abandoned chapel. Steeped in family history and woven with secrets, mystery and tragedy , participation isn’t optional; for the family & that includes Janey even though she has no idea what is expected of her. It seems like a simple summer tradition, but it could prove to be more deadly than anyone ever expected.
Harriet is a masterful writer of the ‘big house’, family saga and in The Beloved Girls she uses this expertise mixed with a huge dollop of dark, atmospheric writing that I am all here for. It’s atmospheric, thriller style vibes were often unsettling in the best possible way and definitely kept me turning the pages whilst firmly hanging on the edge of my seat. This story certainly felt like Evan’s was giving us something extra and a bit different from her usual style, but it certainly works for her and I loved immersing myself in every second.
The pacing of this book is quite slow, but in a good way, with Evan’s drip feeding the morsels of information to you need to know slowly and steadily throughout the chapters. I was utterly absorbed in the multiple POV’s from the beginning as we see the story carefully constructed, I particularly enjoying the nostalgic nods to the 80’s haven grown up at that time. Told across three timelines, present day (2018), 1959 & the late 80’s, we as the reader are able to piece together a full picture of both character and story and I really enjoyed the level of depth and understanding of the main characters we are given allowing me to become invested in their stories. There are multiple aspects to this story including insightful commentary on topics which include society, discovering your true identity and family relationships, all of which is delivered in Evans’ easy to digest signature writing style.
The Beloved Girls is certainly a book you need to take your time reading, enjoying and absorbing each page whilst surmising where the story will take you; it definitely kept me on my toes throughout, unable to guess the ending. It was an extremely emotional read that really gave me everything I was looking for and more to boot; just perfection! I say it every time, as Harriet’s books just keep getting better and better, but The Beloved Girls has quickly become my favourite of her novels to date………..until she unveils her next offering that is!
About The Author
Harriet Evans is the author of The Garden of Lost and Found, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You to name but a few. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.
The Beloved Girls is available to buy now from Amazon*