Source: Review copy
Publication: 8th August 2019 from Ebury Press
A house full of history is bound to have secrets…
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
Rowan Coleman is a witch. There’s no other explanation. In The Summer of Impossible Things she stole a piece of my heart and now she is at it again.
From the start this book worked its magic on me. To be fair, it wasn’t difficult. I love the 19th century novel and Coleman has set this book in the wonderfully gothic Ponden Hall, famous for reputedly being the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange, the home of the Linton family, in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
Coleman takes fact – the history of the Heatons who owned Ponden Hall; Robert Heaton’s love for Emily Bronte and weaves around them a spellbinding story that effortlessly weaves past and present together to create a dramatic love story over three centuries.
There’s a deep passion running through the core of Coleman’s writing. Her knowledge of and love for the Bronte’s shines through and the way in which she blends fact with fiction is beautifully crafted and a joy to read.
The Girl at the Window is a love story, a Gothic ghost story and a story about grand passions. Trudy Heaton was born in Ponden Hall, and grew up loving its connection with the Brontes and finding its history impossibly romantic.
Trudy, an archivist, left Ponden Hall to go and live with the love of her life, doctor Abe, who has now gone missing, presumed dead after his light aircraft crashed in the Peruvian jungle while he was on a humanitarian mission.
So Trudy has come home after 16 years, with her son Will, to nurse her wounds and introduce Will to his grandmother whom he has never met. Trudy and Will are grieving and it’s time she and her mother patched up the rift that was created when Trudy fell in love with Abe. Ponden Hall is crumbling and many of its treasures have long since gone, but the house still holds many secrets, as Trudy will discover.
The Girl At The Window introduces us to the historical written diary entries of Agnes, a young woman born into in possible circumstances; her love for Robert Heaton and how she was grievously wronged. Her story is woven into that of Trudy and Abe’s meeting and falling in love and then we are taken to the present day where Trudy is trying to find ways of coping now that Abe has gone.
Interleaving ghosts, legends and gothic goings on with a present day treasure trail, Coleman beautifully layers past and present showing us how they are connected; how the actions of the past weigh heavily on the present and the lessons that the past has for the future.
What makes this book work, though, is the sheer force of passion that runs through it. It is impossible to read this book and not feel the love. You want these characters to succeed. All the time Trudy and her ma are sparring they are learning a little more about each other and Trudy is finally growing up and opening her eyes to the reality of what her mother went through in her marriage. Forgiveness and reconciliation spar with traditional Yorkshire bluntness and reticence as they negotiate their way to understanding.
In all honesty, this book could probably have used a tighter edit, but I don’t care. It works on all levels and it held me tight all the way through.
Magical, mysterious, gothic and spellbinding, this book reaches across centuries to touch hearts and awaken grand passions. It left me tingling, weepy and completely bereft that it had ended.
Verdict: Haunting, beautiful, magical, I loved this book. . Rowan Coleman has taken another piece of my heart.
Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family. Rowan’s last novel, The Summer of Impossible Things, was selected for Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club. Rowan has an everlasting love for the Brontes, and is a regular visitor of Ponden Hall.