Fyneshade | Kate Griffin

A novel worthy of very high praise (and matching sales!). From the opening paragraphs, Fyneshade had me in its thrall. It opens at the funeral of Marta’s Grandmere, and almost immediately the tone is set; there’s a controlled anger and sly bitterness in the way the scene is described:

“I liked Nathaniel well enough. I liked his stiff red hair, his soft pink mouth and his hard green eyes. But most of all I liked the fact that one day he would be rich.”

So much packed into three short sentences: the description of Nathaniel suggests that he is unattractive, sensual and cruel, but none of that matters because one day he’ll be rich. Marta is revealed to be contemptuous, sharp-tongued, calculating — and patient.

From here it keeps getting better. Marta is packed off to be a governess to a young child at Fynshade, where she expects to find another, richer, man to set her sights on. Things don’t work out as smoothly as she hoped.

Fynshade, Grace, Mrs Gurney, Vaughan… the house and its residents come vividly to life. The house sets the gothic scene. Menacing, packed with secrets — secret passageways, secret rooms and secret plans. Marta is a strong and ruthless woman, equal to the challenge.

Or is she? As the story progresses, nothing is as it seems and nothing turns out as expected.

Marta is a fantastic character, worthy of any of the great gothic novels. Vaughan is her perfect foil.

The writing is luminous. Sharp, tight and evocative, it creates an immersive, somewhat claustrophobic world. But I was so gripped by the story that I hardly noticed the prose – I’d happily read it again just to focus on the writing.

Only after finishing the book did I learn that it was inspired by The Turn of the Screw. Other reviewers have said that it would be enjoyed more by first reading that. I didn’t (read it decades ago and have forgotten it) but that in no way reduced my enjoyment of Fynshade.

5* read. Highly recommended to readers of gothic fiction or historical novels about women.

My thanks to the author and the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.

Fyneshade is available from all major booksellers.

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