Genre: Ghost/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)
Published: 27th June 2019
Reviewed: 21st August 2019
A house full of history is bound to have secrets…
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
Rowan Coleman has always been one of my favourite authors, occupying three out of the twenty coveted spaces on my ‘All Time Favourites’ shelf: The Baby Group, Dearest Rose, and The Summer of Impossible Things. All different genres, and all equally as brilliant as each other. So, as you can imagine, I had already set my hopes quite high for the author’s latest novel. As well as this, I knew The Girl at the Window had connotations with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This brings back fond memories when during the second year of my literature degree, I was snuggled up in my writing room, writing an essay on ‘the constant overlapping of the gothic and the domestic’ in Wuthering Heights whilst the snow and hail storm of February 2016 rapped against my window.
The Girl at the Window is a perfect blend of fact and fiction, historical and contemporary. Starting in the present, Tru is having one of those weird dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. But when she does wake up her nightmare is only just beginning when she is told her army surgeon husband, Abe, has gone missing in action. But despite all the evidence stacking against him, Will (Tru and Abe’s young son) refuses to admit defeat and is determined to have faith in the return of his father. But Tru isn’t convinced and decides to go back to the home where she grew up, and the place where she fell in love with Abe: Ponden Hall and the Yorkshire moors, in the hope that she will find a clue as to what happened to him.
Tru’s mother still lives at Ponden Hall but we soon learn that their relationship is a difficult one and they have been estranged for several years. As the rift in their relationship gradually heals, we learn about what life was like for Tru as a child, and her father’s familial connection to Ponden and the Bronte’s. The story also touches on some deep issues such as post-natal depression. At first, Tru’s mother came across as a right old hag, but by the end I absolutely loved her. A tribute to the author’s wonderful creation of this multi-dimensional character.
But where this story is so very different from other ‘uplit’ genres is that it is also utterly creepy. You wouldn’t think the two genres would work together, but this hybrid really does work so well. There is a scene where a hand comes out of the wall and grabs Tru: like OMG I almost s**t myself! One of the reasons nineteenth-century gothic and crime novels were so popular was because they juxtaposed the ordinary world against danger. Sherlock Holmes for example, one minute he was trying to escape with his life, the next he was in his cosy living room with an open fire and his housekeeper bringing him a cup of tea. Ponden is like that; you have weird and supernatural things going on in one part of the house whilst Tru’s mother is baking cakes in another.
Like Wuthering Heights, The Girl at the Window also has a frame structure, where the past story is told through the present-day story. There were also some other plot and characterisation similarities to Wuthering Heights: I could see parts of Heathcliffe in a few of the characters. Like Heathcliffe, Agnes was brought to Ponden by the man who adopted her; and in the same way that Heathcliffe returned and bought Wuthering Heights, so did Robert. Whilst Blackbeard, like the adult Heathcliffe, was full of hatred and revenge, this character also reminded me of Hindley Earnshaw and the way he treated the young Heathcliffe. There is also, of course, the star-crossed love story element between Agnes and Robert, and not to mention Tru and Abe.
The Girl at the Window has been yet another unique and incredibly satisfying read from Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to give any spoilers but wow that ending, and how the message from Agnes links to Tru on a much deeper level is just brilliant. I can’t really say who I would recommend this book for as it in a league of its own. It’s a story for anybody who is looking for an uplifting story of family, love, loss, reconciliation, as well as somebody who likes a bit of gothic horror. Not to mention anybody who has a book addiction. Modern-day Bronte’ fans perhaps!
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley
for an Advance Review Copy of this book
in return for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author
Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.
Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.