The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Review
What is it about?
In the heatwave of 1959, Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor, where the mystery of their cousin’s disappearance five years before still haunts their Aunt and Uncle. It is a summer of passion and jealousy which will test the sisters’ bonds, as they search for the truth of what really happened to Audrey.
In present day, a new family arrive at Applecote. Jessie, mum to a toddler and step-mum to a troubled teenager, desperately tries to create the perfect country life, away from the hustle of the city, but will Applecote and its ghosts let that happen?
"Houses are never just houses, I’m quite sure of this now. We leave particles behind, dust and dreams, fingerprints on buried wallpapers, our tread in the wear of the stairs. And we take bits of the houses with us. In my case, a love of the smell of wax polish on sun-warmed oak, late-summer sunlight filtering through stained glass. We grow up. We stay the same. We move away but we live for ever where we were most alive."
"A mercury mirror of dirty grey water, spreading west, gushing over piles of sandbags, drowning homes and fields, turning woods into underwater forests, pushing Victorian femurs and finger bones to the surface of one village graveyard not far away."
I just love Eve Chase’s novels. They are so beautifully written and I often get jealous about her wonderful sentences. What strikes me most about her writing though, is how well-developed the characters are. Part of this novel is written in first person from Margot’s perspective, and Eve Chase creates her so well that I feel that I am her, I am there in that heady summer, a teenager again, struggling to find a way into adulthood.
It is a gothic novel with a malevolent tone running throughout but set against the gorgeous backdrop of a Cotswold manor. The manor is a character in its own right, offering beauty and hidden dangers, holding its memories and waiting for its secrets to be discovered.
There are themes of love, sisterhood, betrayal, paranoia, grief, and acceptance. The two storylines of Margot and Jessie eventually come together to leave us on a somewhat optimistic note, which is always nice for a summer read!
It scores an average of 3.9 stars out of 5 on Goodreads. Some people felt that the opening was strong but it then slowed down too much, and some didn’t like Jessie’s narrative as much as Margot’s. However, most people commented on the brilliant atmosphere, the strength of the setting and the sisters and the exploration of family dynamics, and Eve Chase’s lyrical writing.
Who is it for?
Gothic fans. Fans of the fifties. People who like old houses and quintessential English countryside. Fans of mysteries. Fans of character-driven novels. People who like a bittersweet ending.
A superb summer read.
Eve Chase, in her own words:
I write from a shed/studio in my garden in Oxford, accompanied by bits of wildlife that creep over the threshold to investigate my biscuit crumbs. A small space, it's perfect for cooking up bigger ones: sprawling, richly dysfunctional families, stories that seed into the cracked mortar of old houses. I love to read about such things, and write about them. I also love a cracking narrative pace. Words that dance on the tongue. Characters you want to scoop up and put in your pocket for safe keeping.
I'm married with three children.
I dream of Black Rabbit Hall's boot room.
Explore her website here.
Check out my review of her book, Black Rabbit Hall, here.
Buy it from Amazon, here.