Last year I was both charmed and moved by Elizabeth Speller’s first novel, The Return of Captain John Emmett.
I hadn’t expected to the man who had led me through that story again, but when I picked up The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton I found that I would.
Six years after the end of the Great War Lawrence Bartram was travelling to the Wiltshire village of Easton Deadall, to help and support an old friend who had been commissioned to create a war memorial.
Because nearly all of the men of the village had joined up together, and they had died together too.
But a shadow had hung over the village, and the Easton family who lived in the manor house, long before the war. Because five year-old Kitty Easton had disappeared from her home years before, leaving no trace.
And then Kitty’s father died in the war, leaving his widow holding the family estate in trust, for the missing daughter she could not believe to be dead.
She was supported by her sister, by the family’s loyal staff, and maybe by her husband’s two younger brothers.
For a while the story moves slowly as Elizabeth Speller paints this picture, of places, of lives, of relationships. She writes beautifully, and every detail, every nuance is right.
And, in time, a plot begins to build. A village child slips away from a group on an outing, and the search for year uncovers a woman’s body on the estate. And maybe that disappearance, that death, are related to the earlier disappearance of Kitty Easton.
Lawrence, as the outsider, the neutral party, becomes the confidante of many, and he begins to investigate.
Eventually all questions would be answered, and answered well.
Those questions, and the facts that emerged, were intriguing, but this book held much more than mysteries. It was a human story, with characters and relationships quite beautifully drawn.
And, though the story was set in England after the Great War, its themes were timeless.
You see, it was a story that said a great deal. About how we deal with grief, and how it changes our futures. About the secrets we keep behind the faces we present to the world. And about how much we will do to protect the people and things we love.
The ending left a lump in my throat.
Because the answer to the question of Kitty’s disappearance was so unexpected, and yet so right.
And because I had seen Lawrence, the man who had been paralysed by the loss of his wife and child when we first met, coming out of himself just a little more, accepting that he had to go on living.
And the hints about what his future might hold were very interesting.
I suspect that we will meet again. I do hope so.
The book does sound good, but all the detail might be too much for me.
This sounds good, I have Captain John Emmett on my shelf to read (at some point) I can see I might have to make more room now!
Definitely a book to draw you right in.
I loved The Return of Capt John Emmett and thought that a second novel in what seems like a proposed series couldn’t possibly measure up to it, but it did, and more. I think it was even better and I sincerely hope that we won’t be kept waiting too long before number three in this series. One of the best reads so far this year (along with my other favourite read of the year, The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons.)
I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but I loved The Return of Captain John Emmett and I’m glad to hear this one is good too. I’m looking forward to meeting Laurence Bartram again.
The Return is on my short list. I wish I’d picked a copy up when I was in London this spring. 😦
What a brilliant review – you managed to capture the book without giving anything away! I loved it too. Do hope there’s another one in the series. Also really enjoying The Novel in the Viola. Best books of the year so far for me too.