Opening sentence: “The brass plaque, polished so it shone like burnished gold, was mounted pride of place on the chantry wall – a new, if unwelcome, addition to the village church.”
I ‘ve set myself my own unread book challenge during lockdown, starting with the seemingly hundreds of books I have siting on my digital Kindle shelf. One of those being The Lost Ones. I really don’t know why I didn’t read this months ago; I LOVED it! It’s a very sophisticated Gothic ghost tale that had me hooked from the first page.
Stories with a touch of Gothic are ones I’ve found myself drawn to and really enjoying in recent times. From The Corset to Things in Jars and The Stranger Diaries, when I look back, it’s a genre that’s cropping up more and more in my reviews. For good reason, in my humble opinion: you really can’t beat a clever, evocative ghost story.
What is The Lost Ones About?
Set in 1917, Stella Marcham has been doing her bit for the war by assisting nurses in France but returns home in tragic circumstances when her fiancé, Gerald is killed in battle. ‘My grief for Gerald was not indulgent, it was all-consuming.’ Her sister Madeleine looks after her, especially when she seemingly doesn’t stop grieving early enough in the eyes of her mother and doctor.
A few months later, pregnant Madeleine has to go and stay with her mother-in-law in her husband’s grand and imposing family home, Greyswick. Stella, along with her maid, Annie Burrows go there to keep Madeleine company.
It is then that things start to get strange…
‘Either this house is haunted, or I am losing my mind. It’s not much of a choice, is it?’
As in any good ghost story, we meet an intriguing cast of characters, all with one or two secrets… There’s Stella’s maid Annie Burrows who is described as having ‘an otherworldliness to her.’ The mistress of the house, Lady Brightwell and her personal maid Miss Scott who have an unusually close bond and the prerequisite always-ominous housekeeper, Mrs Henge: ‘There are lots of shadows in Greyswick. Mrs Henge seems to occupy most of them.’ Perfectly paced, things reveal themselves at the right moment and the tension builds…
I really enjoyed the strong feminist theme in this book too. Stella is a confident, intelligent woman who finds herself silenced and overlooked simply because she is a woman. Due to Stella’s grief and Madeleine’s pregnancy, the sanity of the women is brought into question more than once, ‘I am sick and tired of men telling me I am unstable.’ But Stella’s feistiness wins out:
‘My vicious tongue with the powerful sting in its tail was the only weapon I had to defend myself’
I adored every page of The Lost Ones; part ghost story, part classic haunted house tale, part murder mystery, all wrapped up in a tone of voice that’s Georgian and modern at the same time – so wonderfully done. I was transported straight back to the era, got chills up my spine reading and could not stop turning those pages until the mystery was revealed! This is a fantastic debut by Anita Frank, I eagerly await her next book! If you love Gothic tales, pick this up immediately.
- Published by HQ 31st October 2019;
- 464 pages;
- My rating: