Oh, this is lovely. A ghost story told so beautifully, so evocatively, and with just a perfect touch that it is something very special indeed.
“This morning I found a strange boy in the sheds. He frightened me , Cyn, but I want to see him again. You’d tell me not to, you’d tell me he wasn’t right, I know you would, but there’s no one else to play with. He didn’t speak to me, but I know he’s be my friend. Sas and Ma don’t believe in him, but you would. I am making it my mission to find out about him ….”
Dieter was just a boy, but he was that master of Sugar Hall, a grand country house in the Welsh borders that had been home to his ancestors for many, many generations.
His family had never visited that house while his grandfather was alive, but when he died his German-born widowed mother, Lilia, and his elder half-sister, Lilia, to make their home there.
The house was big and grand, but it was terribly dilapidated, dirty and neglected. Lilia tries to put things to rights, with the support of her general factotum, John, and her neighbour, Juniper, but it is not easy to fit a modern family into the long-established pattern of an old house. And she had her own history, her own ghosts that she had to come to terms with.
And so Dieter was left to wander through rooms, to gaze at family portraits, to examine the collections displayed in glass cases, and to be drawn into the thrall of the silent boy who wore a silver collar.
He didn’t know, his mother didn’t know, that they had been caught, pulled into a story that had been playing out at Sugar Hall for years and years.
The arc of the story is simple, but the execution makes it special.
‘Sugar Hall’ illuminates the time when the war was over but the consequences were still being felt, and the post-war world hadn’t quite begun. It explores the consequences of old sins and the reverberations they send into the future. It considers the importance of the home, the consequences of leaving, the importance of having a place in the world.
And it does that with the lightest of touches, so that the stories of lives and the story of the ghost can live and breathe.
There’s room for lovely imagery, there’s room for lovely details, there’s room for letters, pictures, documents, lists …. and still there is space to think, to wonder, to catch your breath.
Tiffany Murray’s prose is gorgeous; evocative, spooky, light as air; and her storytelling is spellbinding.
I suspect that there is much more here than I could take in, but I was captivated by the people, the time, the place and the story.
This is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time. And I suspect that it will pull me back to read again one day.