STARRED REVIEW
March 2015

A house of secrets

By Kate Riordan
When 22-year-old Alice becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1930s, both she and her family fear disgrace. Her mother sends her from London to the Gloucestershire countryside to await the baby’s birth at a place called Fiercombe Manor, after which she will give the baby to an orphanage. Her mother’s old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, is the housekeeper at the empty manor, and she promises to keep watch over Alice, who has concocted a cover story of a recently deceased husband.
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When 22-year-old Alice becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1930s, both she and her family fear disgrace. Her mother sends her from London to the Gloucestershire countryside to await the baby’s birth at a place called Fiercombe Manor, after which she will give the baby to an orphanage. Her mother’s old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, is the housekeeper at the empty manor, and she promises to keep watch over Alice, who has concocted a cover story of a recently deceased husband.

The house’s owners, the Stantons, live abroad, so Alice spends the sweltering summer mostly alone, accompanied by a feeling that something is amiss with the manor and its history. She becomes determined to seek out the secrets of the manor’s past and discovers that, 30 years ago, another pregnant woman suffered a tragedy on the estate. As Alice uncovers Elizabeth’s story, she fears that she, too, will share her fate. Weaving together Alice’s and Elizabeth’s stories, Fiercombe Manor ties together two women who, despite their different statuses and eras, are connected in many ways.

British writer and journalist Kate Riordan has worked for the Guardian, and her debut novel, Birdcage Walk, was based on a real-life crime in 1900s London. Her rich language pulls readers in, giving them a glimpse of the idyllic English countryside, its inhabitants and its secrets. Fiercombe Manor is fierce, imaginative and suspenseful.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Fiercombe Manor

Fiercombe Manor

By Kate Riordan
Harper
ISBN 9780062332943

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