Originally published: 14 May 2020
Author: Eve Chase
Published by: Michael Joseph
Genre: Mystery Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 9-11 May 2020
In the early 1970s Rita starts working as a nanny for the well off Harrington family, looking after 12 year old Hera and 5 year old Teddy. Mum Jeannie is pregnant when Rita starts working for them but the baby dies during childbirth and Jeannie ends up in The Lawns, a psychiatric facility. Not long after she returns home, there is a fire in the London house so Rita, Jeannie and the kids go and stay in the family’s country house, Foxcote Manor in the middle of the Forest of Dean, while Walter, Jeannie’s husband is travelling for work. Rita is a great Nanny to the kids – she treats them well and they are all very fond of each other but she is not so happy about being Walter’s spy, keeping an eye on Jeannie’s mental health and reporting back to him.
A couple of weeks after arriving, Hera is wondering around in the forest and finds a new-born baby abandoned. She brings her back to Foxcote Manor and Jeannie at once sees the baby as a replacement for the one that she has lost. Despite Rita’s protests and pleas to call the authorities, the baby ends up staying and they all grow to love the baby whom they call baby Forest.
Meanwhile in the present day we also hear from Sylvie, a makeup artist in her 40s who has just separated from her husband. Her 18 year old daughter Annie takes it badly and decides to go to Devon to stay with Sylvie’s mother. Out walking one day, Sylvie’s mother falls down a cliff and badly injured, ends up in a coma.
Told from the points of view of Rita and Hera in the 1970s and Sylvie in the present day this was a great mystery novel. I couldn’t for the life of me work out the connection between the characters and I enjoyed trying to get figure it out. Hearing from the three different women gave us a great insight into three very different characters.
Rita isn’t a particularly happy character – she lost her parents to a car accident in a forest so feels uncomfortable at Foxcote Manor. She isn’t confident in her looks – she is known as Big Rita for her height and has recently split from her boyfriend. But she is brilliant with the children, especially Hera, reassuring them when their mother is mentally absent. She is also amazing with baby Forest, despite knowing they shouldn’t have kept her.
Hera is a very troubled girl. She was in the house when her mother gave birth and witnessed the midwife taking away the baby who seemed to be alive but deformed. She wants her mothers attention and looks to Rita for reassurance when her mother can’t give her any. Rita seems to know just the right thing to say to her, when Hera confides in her, even offering up her precious terrarium for Hera to look after to show her trust.
Sylvia was the character I identified most being of a similar age. The pain and worry she is going through while her mother is in a coma isn’t all she has to deal with when Annie, who was on track to go and study Maths at Cambridge reveals she is pregnant.
I really enjoyed this. I enjoy a story that spans the years but also has lots of interconnecting threads that come together in a satisfying way at the end of the book.
Thank you to Gaby for inviting me on the tour and to Netgalley and Penguin UK for the copy. Take a look at the other great bloggers below.
About the author:
Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.