Due to be published on 26th July 2018, this new novel from Anna Mazzola will delight you.
Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories. Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years.
My reading experience:
Plunged into a journey across the dark emerald waters between Kyleakin and Skye of 1857 to the manor of Lanerly, the reader is transported to a Romantic Scotland, to Audrey’s rogue adventure to be a folklorist’s assistant, and to the unravelling of Audrey’s own mystery about her mother.
After a less than warm welcome from Miss Buchanan the folklorist, Audrey is keen to prove herself worthy of the task ahead. With no warm family home to return to in London she is motivated by not only her mother’s stories but by her fragile situation.
However, the local crofters are not keen to give up their stories to an outsider and the church is preaching for them to give up their tales of kelpies, sluagh and faeries or be damned. So how is Audrey going to complete her task?
Anna has brought an eclectic mix of characters to life, breathing prejudice and perniciousness into their damp and weary bones. The suspecting and quizzical crofters have lost their land and are on the verge of losing their homes, and our author brings this sense of caution to the otherworldly existence on the remote Isle of Skye. Audrey seems solid where Isbeil seems esoteric, Charlotte Buchanan pale where Alec is illuminated with rich colour. There are secrets of course. Why has Audrey risked everything to become a folklorist? Why is Alec holding on to his home instead of following his dream wholeheartedly? Why has Murdo claimed to not have any children? Why are the girls disappearing?
This story is more than compelling. I was loathe to devour it in one sitting – but it was hard not to, so wrapped up in Audrey, Mairi, Isbeil and the ethereal Charlotte Buchanan it was easy to be.
I am highly recommending this book – Anna has given us a second novel even more pleasing than her first which sits proudly on my bookshelf, as will this. Available to pre-order at Amazon.