The Legacy by Katherine Webb
Following the death of their grandmother, Erica Calcott and her sister Beth return to Storton Manor, where they spent their summer holidays as children. When Erica begins to sort through the house, she relives memories of her childhood - & of her cousin, Henry, whose disappearance from the manor tore the family apart.
This is a story filled with secrets, and peppered with the consequences of keeping these to yourself. You will go mad entirely.
Webb tells two stories here. One set in the early 1900s which focuses on Caroline, the lady of an English manor house who, in the early stages of the novel, we witness leaving a young child in the woods. The other is set in the present day, in the same house, where two sisters have inherited the manor from their grandmother, and are there to prepare the manor to be sold.
The use of narrative in each of the stories differed hugely. Where Caroline’s tale begins at the end, it nevertheless follows a fairly linear path afterwards, portraying the events which led up to her most heartbreaking mistake. The present day narrative is much stranger, relying heavily on flashbacks to reveal the secrets of the two sisters, as they recall events from the childhood summers spent in the manor.
I found the story quite difficult to engage with in the beginning. Webb loves to describe setting, and although she does so beautifully, I became impatient with what felt like every single tree branch being depicted in miniature. Once I’d become more acquainted with her style, however, I was able to appreciate the true value of her portrayals, and most importantly, the way in which she was lining up her mysteries.
Although the plot - both plots, actually - were wonderful, I’d be hard pushed to pick a character I actually liked. All of them felt deeply flawed and selfish to me, and few of them experienced any sort of development which made them any less irritating. I believe this was the point - we are inherently selfish, and we keep secrets to protect ourselves, without realising a secret kept inside can implode.