A huge thanks to Alex for sending me a copy of The Quickening , it’s a gorgeous looking book, and seemed a perfect genre match for me, and I was right; I had such an enjoyable ride reading this one.
Keep scrolling for more bookish chat…
An infamous séance. A house burdened by grief. A secret that can no longer stay buried.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex to photograph the contents of the house for auction. Desperate for money after falling on hard times, she accepts the commission.
On arrival, she learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, the consequences of which still haunt the family. Before the Clewer’s leave England for good, the lady of the house has asked those who attended the original séance to recreate the evening. Louisa soon becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house, unravelling the longheld secrets of what happened that night thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with Clewer Hall’s.
I love gothic fiction, so jumped at the chance to read Rhiannon Ward’s The Quickening, described as a supernatural, chilling historical mystery; centering around a séance at a crumbling, isolated hall in Sussex. With that introduction, there’s no way I’m not in!
We begin with two quotes, a definition of quickening, which is a time in pregnancy where the female can feel dizzy, nervous or experience hysteria. The other from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from his collection of essays, The History of Spiritualism, that explores the question of life after death, and seeking to know if communication is possible with passed loved ones to seek ‘the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.’ This sets up the tone of the narrative, that is split over two time periods.
Our story begins in 1925, where the central protagonist wakes from a dream, filled with memories of the past and those she has lost. This is Louisa Drew, and she is a woman ahead of her time, with a strong determination to achieve and contribute to her life and wider world. She’s a photographer, and despite being heavily pregnant takes on a job at Clewer Hall, to photograph household items for a auction. She knows her second husband will object, so she arranges to leave before he gets home and finds out. I liked Louisa from the start, and soon we begin to realise that Clewer Hall and its inhabitants are hiding many secrets, and that Louisa’s new commission will not be straightforward.
I love crumbling expansive mansions in isolated settings, adding a heavy dose of gothic atmosphere and I’m hooked. This is my kind of book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the merging of mystery thriller, gothic deliciousness, supernatural events and murder. However, it’s the additional depth that really resonated with me, from the devastation of World War One, to female empowerment, photography methods of the time, grief and finding the strength to change your life, even in difficult circumstances.
Added to all this, there’s the intrigue of the recreated séance, the mysterious behaviour of the characters, and Louisa’s increasingly dangerous position that racks up the tension. The séance adds an intensely creepy tone that adds malevolence with increasingly odd, and unexplainable events to add turmoil to Louisa’s commission. There’s a darkness lurking in the shadows of the house, and this drives the narrative; the reader begins to piece together the clues, that reveal the truth of the house. Along the way, Louisa makes both enemies and friends, but she remains determined. There’s a little of a romance sub-plot which is nicely handled, and adds to Louisa’s spirit and determination to live her life, and build her future in her own terms.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical gothic fiction, and enjoy some supernatural thrills.
I struggled to put it down, a goose-bump inducing supernatural ride! Read it!