Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found. The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply. But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .
From the author of Black Rabbit Hall.
I couldn’t wait to read The Glass House as Black Rabbit Hall was one of my favourite books of 2016 (I think it was published a year earlier).
The Glass House is very different though both use a crumbling house as the setting. It begins in 1971 where Rita, known as ‘Big Rita’ because of her height, is nanny to the Harringtons, looking after children Hera and little brother Teddy. Their family set up is a strange one, father Walter being away most of the time on business while wife Jeannie is suffering from severe depression after losing her baby. She had been sent away to ‘get better’ at The Lawns – I think it would have been referred to as a ‘sanatorium’ in those days. Their home in London has suffered a fire so off they go to live in a ramshackle house called Foxcote in The Forest of Dean. I know the area reasonably well as I live quite close.
However, it’s a little way into the story before ‘Baby Forest’ as she is named by the family is discovered. In fact this book is a really slow burn and while I initially found it hard to get into, it grew and grew on me and by half way through I couldn’t put it down. The joys of being furloughed meant I didn’t have to and I finished it in three days, despite reading two other books at the same time. It’s beautifully written – the story being told from the point of view of Rita in 1971, Hera then and now and Sylvie now. I can’t say that I didn’t work out who was who because I did quite easily but this isn’t that kind of book. It’s not a twisty thriller or a whodunit – though there is a body in the woods. It’s a gentle story delicately interwoven with an equal measure of sadness and happy endings.
Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.