The Girls meets The Little Stranger in this dark and captivating debut about sisterhood, family secrets, and a dangerous game that becomes all too real.
1976. Loo and her sister Bee live in a run-down cottage in the middle of nowhere, with their artistic parents and wild siblings. Their mother, Cathy, had hoped to escape to a simpler life; instead the family find themselves isolated and shunned by their neighbours. At the height of the stifling summer, unexplained noises and occurences in the house begin to disturb the family, until they intrude on every waking moment . . .
Loo, now Lucy, is called back to her childhood home. A group of strangers are looking to discover the truth about the house and the people who lived there. But is Lucy ready to confront what really happened all those years ago?
Expected date of publication: September 5th 2019
Big thanks to NetGalley and the team over at Bonnier / Zaffre Books UK for sending me a kindle edition of the novel in exchange for an honest review!
I’m a big fan of supernatural or horror related fiction so I knew I simply had to request a copy of The Wayward Girls and was so pleased when it landed on my shelf on NetGalley. The novel is focused on the Corvino family and a series of strange events which occurred over the course of a summer, once they moved into a rural cottage, Iron Sike Farm. Things that go bump in the night, mysterious bruises and knocking at all hours amongst a whole host of other disturbing occurrences encourage Cathy to seek help from paranormal researchers Michael and Simon. Added into the mix is Issy, a photographer and journalist for the local paper, who is sceptical about the families story; is there more than meets the eye here or are is the farm really haunted?
The novels biggest strength is the foreboding and sinister atmosphere which Amanda Mason so skilfully creates through the course of the novel. From the interior of the cottage which is run down and draughty to the family garage where the children are forbidden to visit, it all creates an undercurrent of unease which makes it the perfect location for the supernatural to rear its head.
The novel bounces back and forth between the past and present, with each chapter marked ‘then’ and ‘now’. In the present, Cathy is in a nursing home suffering with dementia, struggling to deal with her past and her fractured family. After a strange incident, Cathy is injured and her daughter Lucy also known as Loo, comes to check on her mother, albeit grudgingly and gets drawn back into the mysteries of her childhood at the farm as a new investigation gets underway.
Alongside the mystery of the house, there is also a second thread which runs throughout the novel; the relationship between Loo and her teenage sister Bee. One might think they’re close as they seem inseparable and dress in a similar manner, but Bee has a dark side, which Loo is subjected to more often than not. With the arrival of the handsome and kind Simon, a heady coming of age story ties in with the supernatural.
There were hints of something happening to Bee pretty early on in the novel, but what exactly that is, is withheld right until the climax, when then and now merge. I would say it was definitely worth the build up for this reveal, although I wish it could move a bit faster at times!
I feel like Mason does a good job here of depicting the strained relationship between Cathy and Loo as well as the rest of the family. It reminded me a lot of the Netflix adaptation: The Haunting of Hill House, whereby each of the Corvino siblings are living very separate lives and it all stems back to an incident in their youth. I thought the the exploration of trauma and how each sibling has dealt with it differently was very interesting. For instance, Lucy has stayed the closest to her mother despite the fact that she finds it difficult, the other siblings, Dante, Florian and Antonella rarely visit and live far away. It paints a sad picture and Lucy is very much isolated for most of the novel, which just adds to the eeriness.
In the past or ‘then’ sections of the novel, the investigation of the Corvinos home is explored in detail by a professor named Michael and a student Simon. We read as they survey the house and watch out for the strange events, which seem to happen whenever Loo and her sister Bee are alone together. I found these parts of the book to be the most interesting alongside the investigation in the present day – it was a cool mirroring technique almost, seeing the way the different groups approach the house and whats happening inside. I thought the reveal of what was really going on and the way it ends to be so fitting the tone of the novel overall, it wasn’t all neatly wrapped up but I actually liked it that way.
Overall, The Wayward Girls was a creepy, atmospheric and interesting novel and will keep a reader on their toes. The story draws on some of the tropes of this genre but still retains a unique voice and proved to be a worthwhile read.
Until next time,