I didn’t realize it at first, but this is a story about a house, built in the bend of the river Thames before it reaches London. But houses are nothing without the people who inhabit them. In 1861 this particular house was purchased by an artist who invites a group of friends, along with his sisters and current model, to spend a summer working there. One hundred and fifty years later Elodie, an archivist in the city, finds a satchel containing the artist’s sketch book and recognizes the house from her favorite bedtime story when she was a child. Twin gables and a distinctive weather vane, exactly like the story. Now that she knows the house is a real place she is determined to see it even if it interferes with her upcoming wedding preparations to wealthy fiancé Alastair. Elodie’s mother, a world famous musician, was killed in an automobile accident when Elodie was a child. She feels as though finding the house will be finding at least a part of her mother again.
But Elodie is not the only main character in the story. The other one is a ghost. She has inhabited the estate by the river since the summer of 1861. For many years she was alone there. Then the artist’s sister Lucy opened a school for girls which lasted several years until one of the students was drowned in a boating accident. Now the house is a museum open to the public on weekends. Sometimes the smaller buildings are inhabited by a student or researcher for several months at a time. During the war the house was rented to Elodie’s great-grandmother for a time when her home in London was bombed. The ghost has seen all of these people come and go, and a few of them have seen her, including Elodie’s uncle Tip, who was a child during the war years.
I really enjoyed this book. Part of the story takes place during the Victorian era, Dickens and the artists of the time play a part. The war years and the bombing of London have a role. Elodie, very much in the present, using her archivist training to ferret out the fairy story from her childhood, finds much more. Love stories, mysteries, a little magic, some tragedy, all are woven into this book. You’ll love it!
ps I have since read two more books by Kate Morton, The Distant Hours, and The Lake House. Both revolve around beautiful old houses and the families who live there. All of the three books are so well done and I can highly recommend them. These are not quick reads, and require an investment of time but are so well worth it. I look forward to the next volume by Kate Morton.