I really loved Harriet Evans’ previous novel The Garden of Lost and Found so I jumped at the chance to read this new one The Beloved Girls. Isn’t that just a gorgeous cover? There are so many little details in it which come to make sense as you read the book.
The Beloved Girls is just the kind of book I enjoy. As I expected, it is beautifully written and the author draws you into the story from the very beginning. It’s the story of a rather eccentric well-to-do English family living in a big rambling old house and with their own rather odd traditions. Janey Lestrange goes to stay with the family one summer and as the end of summer approaches, so does the ancient family ritual called ‘The Collecting‘. Tragedy seems to follow this family often linked to the bees which live in ancient hives in on old chapel in the family grounds. As we all know, bees are so essential to life on our planet but here they are treated with reverence and fear in equal measure.
I really enjoyed the way the story takes place during different time periods and the way the author cleverly slips information into the book which totally takes you by surprise. It becomes apparent that events in the different times have repercussions throughout the years. There’s a real sense of foreboding throughout the book as we know that something terrible happened during that summer of 1989 when Janey visited but have to read on to find out what it was. It was so intriguing and had me wondering just what had happened and why it was so awful that it seemed to have led to the disappearance of barrister Catherine almost 30 years later.
With a family mystery and secrets at the heart of this book keeping me glued to the pages, The Beloved Girls is haunting and atmospheric, a really satisfying read.
My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my beautiful hardback review copy of the book and for the invitation to take part in the tour. The Beloved Girls is published by Headline Review
and is available now from all good book retailers.
From the back of the book
‘It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.’
Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?
The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .
‘We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.’
About the Author
Harriet Evans has sold over a million copies of her books. She is the author of twelve bestselling novels, most recently the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Garden of Lost and Found, which won Good Housekeeping’s Book of the Year, and The Wildflowers, which was a Richard & Judy Book Club selection. She used to work in publishing and now writes full time, when she is not being distracted by her children, other books, crafting projects, puzzles, gardening, and her much-loved collection of jumpsuits. She lives in Bath, Somerset.