The award-winning Sunday Times bestseller from the winner of the Women's Prize Futures Award
*WINNER of the WOMEN'S PRIZE FUTURES AWARD* A Waterstones Best Book of the Year Longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize Longlisted for the Portico Prize 'Highly atmospheric and tense' Richard Osman From the bestselling author of The Familiars and The Foundling comes Stacey Halls' most compelling and ambitious novel to date. 'Something's not right here.' I was aware of Mr Booth's eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. 'What do you mean?' 'In the house. With the family.' West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the 'angel of the house' Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect family - and she should know. Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls' third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times. Praise for MRS ENGLAND: 'Stacey Halls is a writer of great originality, great imagination and great sense of place. Atmospheric, intelligent, accessible, every novel is worth reading, then reading again and again' Kate Mosse 'Utterly compelling. Menacing and marvellously written, this is a hugely accomplished Edwardian chiller' Daily Mail 'Shimmers with menace... enticing and beautifully written' Sunday Express 'Outstanding. Haunting, compelling, atmospheric' Emma Stonex, bestselling author of The Lamplighters 'Mesmerising, entrancing, a spellbinding novel of emotion and mystery, a heroine caught in an impossible world of twists, turns and lies. Gripping to the very last page' Kate Williams 'Full of gothic menace, this Edwardian mystery is convincing and absolutely enthralling' Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City 'Both dazzling and dark, as beautiful as it is disturbing. A captivating, sensuous novel' Inga Vesper, author of The Long, Long Afternoon 'In precise and evocative prose, Stacey Halls has conjured a devastating, compelling and utterly real world. I was gripped from start to finish' Joanna Glen, Costa shortlisted author of The Other Half of Augusta Hope 'Jaw-droppingly brilliant. Exquisitely written, incredibly atmospheric, a masterclass in rising tension. The deliciously addictive love-child of Daphne Du Maurier and Henry James' Liz Hyder 'Brilliant. An utterly gripping exploration of female fortitude in adversity, with a propulsive, atmospheric plot. Ruby is a wonderful protagonist' Caroline Lea *Sunday Times bestseller June 2021 and January 2022* *Winner of Women's Prize for Fiction x Good Housekeeping Futures award - Good Housekeeping 14 Oct 2022*
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Stacey Halls’ superb books have aways been afforded true agency—and here we’re afforded one of 2021’s most compelling leads: a freshly qualified nurse with a damaged past in Edwardian England with called Ruby May. She ventures to West Yorkshire to nanny the young children of Charlie and Lillian England. Cast in a gothic, Jane Eyre-esque shadow, Halls’ tale wraps us up in the claustrophobic embrace of the Englands’ faintly terrifying home and its complex residents. While battling her own demons, Ruby is left to contend with the family’s jet-black secrets and lies, and Halls proves expert in slowly, carefully ratcheting up the tension with each passing page.
Familiar tropes dampen the chilling effect of Halls's promising excursion (after The Foundling) into the haunting and harrowing halls of domestic traumas set in the Yorkshire moors of Edwardian England. Newly graduated from the prestigious Norland Institute for the Training of Ladies as Children's Nurses, Ruby May turns down an offer to move to Chicago for a job in 1904 and instead tends to the four children of Charles and Lilian England, wealthy cotton mill owners, at the isolated Hardcastle House. Ruby instantly surmises that "something's not right" with the innocuously charming father and the enigmatic, seemingly addled mother who occasionally sleepwalks. Lost letters, an accusatory message smeared on a bathroom mirror, locked doors, and a nearly fatal scare involving a gaslight shroud bigger secrets. Flashbacks detail Ruby's disquieting childhood, and the treacherous landscape of raging rivers, craggy hillsides, and deep, dark woods create an eerie atmosphere and add to the heart-stopping conclusion. The sort of ordeals Ruby faces as the beleaguered nanny have been seen before, but Halls does a nice job highlighting the imbalance of power determined by gender and class, and the deceit that follows psychological manipulation of daughters, mothers, and wives. Astute readers may suss out the plot early on, but it still offers a beguiling, leisurely diversion.