It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin, published on 15th September by Legend Press. My thanks to the publishers for my reading e-copy, and for including me in the tour. I came a little late to Cassandra’s writing – although The Beach Hut and The Summer We All Ran Away are now on my kindle, ready to catch up with when I surface from beneath my current reading pile – and the wonderful Lily’s House was firmly and without question one of my favourite books of last year. You’ll find my review of that one here, and you can also catch up with my interview with Cassandra. I loved that book – but this one? I think it’s even better…
Five years ago, Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing without trace. Bereft of her son and then of her husband, Susannah tries to accept that she may never know for certain what has happened to her lost loved ones. She has rebuilt her life around a simple selfless mission: to help others who, like her, must learn to live without hope.
But then, on the last night of Hull Fair, a fortune-teller makes an eerie prediction. She tells her that this Christmas Eve, Joel will finally come back to her.
As her carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, Susannah is drawn into a world of psychics and charlatans, half-truths and hauntings, friendships and betrayals, forcing her to confront the buried truths of her family’s past, where nothing and no one are quite as they seem.
A ghostly winter read with a modern gothic flavour. A tale of twisted love, family secrets and hauntings.
Goodness, it might have taken me rather longer than it should have to discover Cassandra Parkin’s books, but I’m in complete awe at the depth and quality of her writing. There’s a wonderful gothic and sinister edge to this one, a creeping darkness – but also a mesmerising quality to the multiple twists and turns of the story, and a real fascination in watching the impact of grief and loss, a mother falling apart. There’s an icy chill about it too – in its wintery setting (I’ve lived in Hull – there are few colds that chilling…), in some of the episodes experienced by Susannah as she disintegrates, and in its stark portrayal of the desperation of loneliness.
The story’s construction is compelling and stunning – scenes of past and present perfectly interwoven, every one there for a reason, no words wasted, all driving the story towards its uncertain and unavoidable conclusion. The characterisation is exceptional, the relationships real, the emotions perfectly evoked and described, as Susannah slowly peels away layers of elusive memory, the ultimate in unreliable narrators. The moments of anger shake you, the realness of the family dynamics, and the moments of tenderness touch you to the core. The set pieces are wonderfully accomplished – this book had me totally hooked from the vivid opening scenes in Hull Fair, and there are other scenes that will be permanently etched in my memory. And I loved the extracts from Susannah’s blog – her words, the emotions behind them, the impact it has on others.
This book was just stunning – without question, one of my favourite reads of this year.
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. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.
The Summer We All Ran Away (Legend Press, 2013) was Cassandra’s debut novel and nominated for the Amazon Rising Stars 2014.
Legend Press have also published The Beach Hut (2015), Lily’s House (2016) and The Winter’s Child (2017). Cassandra’s fifth novel is due to be published in 2018.