Reviewed by Louise Wykes
Easter 1955. As Lilia Sugar scrapes the ice from the inside of the windows and the rust from the locks in Sugar Hall, she knows there are pasts she cannot erase. On the very edge of the English/Welsh border, the red gardens of Sugar Hall hold a secret, and as Britain prepares for its last hanging, Lilia and her children must confront a history that has been buried but not forgotten.
Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray.
This book opens in the abandoned Sugar Hall in 1955 where Lilia and her children Saskia and Dieter are living in isolation with very little interaction with the villagers who keep their distance because they have heard rumours of ghosts.
Lilia is a widowed woman who had to leave her home in London when her husband died to come and live in Sugar Hall. On her husband’s death, his family home, Sugar Hall, was automatically passed to Dieter being the living male heir but as he is only a 8 year old boy and they have nowhere else to live, Lilia brings her two children to come and live in the mysteriously creepy mansion house.
Dieter and Saskia miss their old life in London so very much and Dieter is desperate for companionship so when he meets a peculiarly pale young boy who appears naked and alone, Dieter is quick to help the boy find some clothes and is determined to become the boys’ friend even if he rarely speaks and wears a mysterious silver collar round his neck and nobody else appears to be able to see the young boy.
This is a slow burning, book which takes time to get going but not in a bad way as the author has such a wonderfully lyrical way of describing place and people that the reader doesn’t mind the wait. I had to keep reminding myself that this book was actually set in 1955 and not in Victorian times. Throughout the book are illustrations of moths and newspaper cuttings which sometimes add to the reader’s knowledge of the background of the house and characters and sometimes leaves the reader with more questions.
This is a very beautifully written and vividly drawn story that will leave the reader with a cold chill long after finishing the book.
I'd like to thank Seren Books for sending a copy of this book to Louise to review.