The story is told in two narratives. There is Elizabeth and her haunting tale of yesteryear and there is present day Alice. The main character of the story is however the house. Fiercombe Manor is definitely center stage.
The present day is 1933. Alice's mother is only concerned of "what will people say". Her daughter's feelings are very secondary. As it is she is anxious that her daughter is unmarried, despite the fact that she is educated, earning a good wage and also supports the family. The fact that level headed Alice is now pregnant, the man is married and a solution has to be found and quickly. Despatched to the care of Mrs Jhelps, a housekeeper at Fiercombe Manor who was a girlhood friend of her mother's with a fabricated story of a dead husband, Alice finds herself a mother in waiting for the pregnancy to finish.
We then go back to the other part of the story. Elizabeth Stanton is the lady of the Manor. She is beautiful, loved but everything is not as it seems. The lady is pregnant (after several miscarriages) and the birth of a healthy daughter Isabel who seems to count for almost nothing as she is not the son that her father Edward is yearning for. Added to that tragedy is the fact that after Isabel's birth, Elizabeth developed a melancholia which would today be diagnosed correctly but which at that time (not so long ago) was considered madness and ladies like this were confined to private asylums with the most ridiculous regimes.
The fact that Elizabeth came out of the regime relatively unscathed is due to her strong will to survive and be a mother to Isabel. However her pregnancy has brought about her feelings of inadequacy to the fore, so much so that she is dreading the birth. She feels very much that it is another girl and that Edward is going to be furious. She also knows that the "blackness" will descend on her when it is a girl. Her miscarriages of boys has not brought on the same depression.
Alice whilst staying at the Manor comes across Elizabeth's diary and also ventures into areas of the Manor which Mrs. Jelps has strictly forbidden as being too dangerous for her. Alice has curiosity about the past of the Manor which goes way beyond what would be considered normal for an absolute outsider. Coming into contact with Tom, the sole survivor of the Stanton clan does not help either because she is also attracted to him.
How the story unravels a bit by bit, and how it ends with both Alice and Elizabeth being at peace with the past is very nicely told.
This book was sent to me by Edelweiss.