England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Quickening! Huge thanks to Alex Layt for the invite and to Trapeze Books for sending me a drop dead gorgeous finished copy, definitely one to cherish and come back to in the darker months of the year.
I’ve had a craving for Gothic stories all year so when the invite for The Quickening landed in my mailbox I found myself unable to walk away even though I had put myself on a blog tour ban. Well, bookish bans are there to be broken, I’m sure we’ll all agree on that 😉
In any case, I regret nothing! The Quickening is such a beautiful story, deeply Gothic and slow-burning in a way that definitely did the trick for me.
Louisa Drew is a photographer, in other words she works for a living, which is rather a big deal in 1925. She has lived through quite some heartache, she lost the love of her life in the war and her twin boys to the Spanish flu, and when we meet her in 1925 she is married to a man who couldn’t be more different from her first husband if he tried, and pregnant with his child. When she’s commissioned to travel to Clewer Hall to take photos for an auction, she ups and leaves, knowing full well the hubby won’t be pleased at all, but also realising that the money she’ll make will benefit her child hugely.
However, Clewer Hall and its residents aren’t what Louisa was expecting, what with the house exuding a gloomy vibe making her uncomfortable and its residents acting odd and secretive. Moreover, it turns out that Clewer Hall was the location of a rather infamous séance thirty years ago, and the lady of the house, wanting to recreate it, has invited the guests that were present then, including, obviously, the medium who caused quite a stir last time.
Louisa feels something is off, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. And then there is the piano music she keeps hearing while no one else seems to, and photos that turn out with an eerie gloom for no apparent reason, and a mysterious boy.
Louisa is a brilliant main character. She’s rather ahead of her time, free-thinking but also struggling a little with that, it’s not always easy going against the grain. She’s trying to do a proper job in Clewer Hall, while also trying to make sense of her feelings for her husband, or lack thereof, and trying to figure out what it is she wants from life, AND what it she can get out of life, which are two very different things in 1925 when you’re a woman.
Part historical fiction, part ghost story, part murder mystery, The Quickening can’t be crammed into one single genre box, which is just the way I like it. The intricacies of photography, the aftermath of WWI and the Spanish flu, the characters and the events come alive with the attention to detail with which they have been written. Armchair detective that I am, I thought I’d had it all figured out, until it became obvious I hadn’t.
The Quickening is shrouded in mystery in an eerie, Gothic, slow-burning way, and I absolutely loved it.