When Jen goes to her grandmother’s house for the last time, she’s determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch; but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won’t be any reconciliation.
Lily’s gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily’s house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present – and discover how dangerous we become when we’re trying to protect the ones we love.
When my turn came on the recent blog tour, the author rather saved my life by suggesting that I interview her – I just couldn’t manage a review at the time – and you can read our lovely conversation here. But I just had to return to tell you how very much I loved this book.
This book hooked me from the very first page – at first, a seemingly simple story about Jen and her daughter returning to her grandmother’s house to pack it up and sell it after her death, it became a complex tale about families, relationships and hidden secrets that twisted and turned and kept me absolutely spellbound. Anyone who remembers their stays with grandparents as a child will love the vignettes from Jen’s childhood, the memories of unaccustomed freedoms, the pleasures in small things, all beautifully drawn with the enigmatic Lily at their centre. The present day story is wonderfully handled too – the relationship between mother and daughter, the unexpected discoveries, Jen’s marriage and her relationship with her partner, and the fact that all is not as it initially appears.
I loved the use of text messages – at first, seemingly a device to show the nature of Jen’s relationship with her partner, but with a far greater relevance and meaning as the story unfurls, as what first seems loving and caring reveals something considerably darker. The layering of stories is accomplished with an assurance that sometimes takes your breath away – and I loved the thread of “magic” that permeates the book, the questions that arise about Lily, and the true nature of the whole range of relationships. The dark and chilling edge is unexpected, the revelations perfectly managed – the author leads you gently by the hand, your understanding as a reader growing as the book progresses, the truth slowly emerging around a whole range of issues, past and present. The writing is quite wonderful – descriptive and rich in detail (I particularly loved Lily’s photograph album and its secrets hidden and revealed) – and the characterisation very strong.
Others have called this book unforgettable – I can only agree, and highly recommend it to everyone. Whatever you expect as the story begins, your expectations will be totally confounded – and the whole journey you take is simply wonderful, led by a master storyteller. One very special book.
My thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for my advance reading e-copy of Lily’s House.
About the author
Cassandra Parkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. She is also the author of The Summer We All Ran Away (2013) and The Beach Hut (2015). Cassandra’s writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.