You may remember that in January I reviewed Merryn Allingham’s The Buttonmaker’s Daughter and I was intrigued to see how the story continued in The Secret of Summerhayes. I wasn’t disappointed!
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: HQ; First edition edition (27 July 2017)
A war-torn summer
A house fallen into ruin
A family broken apart by scandal…
Summer 1944: Bombed out by the blitz, Bethany Merston takes up a post as companion to elderly Alice Summer, last remaining inhabitant of the dilapidated and crumbling Summerhayes estate. Now a shadow of its former glory; most of the rooms have been shut up, the garden is overgrown and the whole place feels as unwelcoming as the family themselves.
Struggling with the realities of war, Alice is plagued by anonymous letters and haunting visions of her old household. At first, Beth tries to convince her it’s all in her mind but soon starts to unravel the mysteries surrounding the aristocratic family’s past.
An evocative and captivating tale, The Secret of Summerhayes tells of dark secrets, almost-forgotten scandals and a household teetering on the edge of ruin.
The opening scene leaves the reader in no doubt about the changes to this once stunning estate. Summerhayes has been a military base for years having been requisitioned at the outbreak of war and is occupied by the Canadian army in the lead up to D Day. I felt quite sad to see the destruction and dilapidation.
Alice is now elderly and with the help of Beth, gets through the days living in only a couple of rooms in the attic spaces. Such a different life to the one we left in The Buttonmaker’s Daughter! This is the perfect setting for the feuding, intrigue and mystery that continues to unravel.
Merryn Allingham’s writing gives a wonderful sense of time and place. The rationing and its effects, dancing in the village hall and the soldier’s experiences transported me to 1944. The conflict, not only from the family feuding but the romance too is well paced and had me eagerly turning the pages. So many emotions! for Alice, for Beth, for Jos and especially for Eddie.
Although I had guessed the resolution of a couple of things I hadn’t seen how one conflict would play out. I was numb with shock. This is the great thing about reading isn’t it … opening the door into another world and experiencing a whole host of feelings and experiences, whether that is ‘light’ or ‘dark.’ We certainly see the shadow side of characters in this story.
You don’t need to read The Buttonmaker’s Daughter to enjoy The Secret of Summerhayes as both can be read as standalone stories. I think the emotional impact is more though if you do!
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I have no hesitation in recommending you add The Secret of Summerhayes to your reading list.
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