England, 1911. Reverend Albert Canning, a vicar with a passion for spiritualism - and his naive wife, Hester - led a happy existence in the sleepy parish of Cold Ash Holt, Berkshire. As summer dawns, their quiet lives are changed forever by two new arrivals. First comes Cat, the new maid; a free-spirited and disaffected young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the suffragette movement and with the law. Over-educated for her station, Cat baulks at her life of servitude, quickly finding a place for herself in the secret underbelly of local society as she plots her escape. Then comes Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, with whom Albert has been in correspondence, enticed to visit Cold Ash Holt by the vicar's tales of elemental beings in the water meadows around the village. A young man of magnetic charm and beauty, Robin Durrant soon becomes an object of fascination and repressed passion for Albert. During a long spell of oppressive summer heat, the rectory at Cold Ash Holt becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy; a mixture of emotions so powerful that it leads, ultimately, to murder.
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Good book, no so good narrator
I would probably read rather than listen. I should say that I am very fussy when it comes to narrators, and Ms Wille was not up to par for me. Her characterisations were excellent, but the rest of the read was flat. The story, though, was excellent, and Katherine Webb is a gifted writer.
A generally well-written book, there are several moments where the prose is just gob-smacking. Some of the descriptions were sublime.
As mentioned above, I thought Clare Wille's characterisations were excellent, but the rest of the narration was dull, and at times felt like it was not in her natural voice. There were also some very annoying pauses after characters spoke.
Usually if I don't like a narrator, I don't finish the book. In this case, the story was so captivating that I continued, despite my misgivings about the narrator. I'm looking forward to reading and listening to more by Katherine Webb.
- Margaret M. Bell