A beautifully told, captivating novel of 19th century love and intrigue
Maisie Thomas spends every summer with her parents at Grange House, a hotel on an island off the coast of Maine ruled by the elegant but distant Miss Grange. In 1898, when Maisie turns 17, her visit marks a turning point. On the morning after her arrival, local fishermen make a gruesome discovery: two drowned lovers, found clasped in each other's arms. It's only the first in a series of events that cast a shadow over Maisie's summer. As she considers the attentions of two very different young men, one an adventurous writer, the other an ambitious businessman from her father's company, Maisie also falls under the gaze of Miss Grange, who begins to tell her stories of her past. But which are truth and which are fiction? Another death, a cache of diaries, an exchange of letters--and a ghostly apparition--all play a part in changing Maisie's life forever.
Rich with the details, customs, and language of the era, Sarah Blake's GRANGE HOUSE is part family saga, part ghost-story, part love story; a wonderfully atmospheric, page-turning novel of literary suspense and romance.
The language, mores and class distinctions of 19th-century society are faithfully rendered in this atmospheric if overstuffed approximation of a Victorian novel, evoking a fashionable hotel on the coast of Maine in the summer of 1896. Grange House was once the family home of a prosperous quarry owner, but a spinster daughter, reclusive one-time "authoress" Miss Nell Grange, is the only Grange left on the premises; a formidable lady cook and a managing hostess run the hotel. Accompanied by her parents, 17-year-old Maisie Thomas has been a guest at Grange House every summer of her life. She's enthralled with Miss Grange and dreams of being a writer herself. This summer's visit augurs ill, however. A pair of lovers are discovered drowned on a foggy morning, there is a mysterious grave in the woods, and Miss Grange drops strange hints about babies and deaths, drawing Maisie into an examination of the past and conjuring up ghosts. Meanwhile, Maisie's parents are pushing her toward a marriage to Jonathan Lanman, her father's young associate. Maisie's father asserts that marriage "puts solid ground beneath one's feet...a place. You can not have a history without a place." But Maisie is drawn to another guest, imaginative, bantering travel writer Bart Hunnowell. The format is a story within a story: as Miss Grange recounts the often improbable events of her life, Maisie is lost in a blur of fantasy and reality until she begins to doubt even her own identity. The fog, the dense woods and the sea itself are virtual characters in poet Blake's (Full Turn) gothic debut, reflecting the gloom of long-kept secrets. A nighttime assignation in a rowboat finally threatens tragedy, and the narrative plunges to a two-hankie finale.