This was the May read for my book group and I opened the pages quite keen to get started. From the beginning I felt a sense of familiarity with A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore, although the storyline did not share any similarities beyond the depth of research done by the authors, so just why I felt this familiarity I am not sure.
The storyline is complex and the author weaves a series of threads and genres within the pages.
The book contains four central characters, all members of one family who live in a rather large house in a large estate in Dorset. The house description was atmospheric, and built in the mid Victorian period and I could visualise a gothic looking house with a foreboding mist surrounding the building, which almost felt sinister.
The family are dysfunctional – father Clive is a self absorbed individual, a naturist and has quite a collection of moths. The research on the moths was astounding and very interesting. Mother, Maud is a troubled woman who tries to keep the family grounded and has a secret or two. The daughters, Ginny and Vivien are close as children, but as time passes by they are like strangers, which is not helped by the fact that Vivian has not been home to the family estate for around 50 years.
Each individual has their secrets and there is almost too many. There are several medical themes through the book; of mental instability, Aspergers or Autism, Alcoholism, Aging and decay, and different levels of abuse.
This is a busy novel, with lots going on and yet nothing is explained fully, which means that the reader can form an opinion about the characters and their actions.
Did I enjoy it? Actually yes, I found the detail of the moths fascinating, but wonder if there was too much detail about this. I would have liked more details of the house and perhaps definitive answers to some of the questions that the book produced.
Overall, a good read and it is hard to believe that this is a first novel for the author, who researched the various details very well. The book is cleverly written, with the decay of the house is almost reflective of the family.
Published as The Sister in the US and as The Behaviour of Moths in the UK.