Title: The Girl in the Photograph
Author: Kate Riordan
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
Date of Publication: 15 January 2015
Number of Pages: 448
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), History
Rating: 3 stars
Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: In the summer of 1933, Alice Eveleigh has arrived at Fiercombe Manor in disgrace. The beautiful house becomes her sanctuary, a place to hide her shame from society in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. But the manor also becomes a place of suspicion, one of secrecy.
Something isn’t right.
Someone is watching.
There are secrets that the manor house seems determined to keep. Tragedy haunts the empty rooms and foreboding hangs heavy in the stifling heat. Traces of the previous occupant, Elizabeth Stanton, are everywhere and soon Alice discovers Elizabeth’s life eerily mirrors the path she herself is on.
Review: The Girl in the Photograph is a nice, easy going read but one I feel, will be easily forgotten. I cannot pick a standout moment but I also cannot pick a weak moment. The story is well told and flows in a logical way, however, there are moments where it seems Riordan has played it safe both in the phrasing of her sentences and also in direction she wants the story to go. There isn’t really any part that takes a risk or makes you think wow. It all seems terribly pedestrian. The slowness of the story, however, in some ways, mimics the boredom of a long hot summer and the nine months spent waiting for a child to arrive.
By no means am I saying this is a bad book. If you enjoy Kate Morton you will like this novel. Think of it as Morton light. I cannot agree though, that this is in any way similar to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. I can see why they use this as a promotional line but other than the main character, Alice attempting to learn more about the previous mistress of Fiercombe Manor, there is no comparison.
The book suffers from being a little long winded. There is a lot of repetition that doesn’t progress the story. Alice is slightly one dimensional and dim. Elizabeth is far more interesting but isn’t given sufficient voice. The Girl in the Photograph may have worked better had the two women had their positions reversed. The opposing decades are also played down. The two women could have had their stories told at nearly any point during the the mid to late 19th century. There is also the question of the ending which is exactly what was expected and exactly what wasn’t wanted.
What The Girl in the Photograph does well though, is communicate the relationships between mothers and daughters – the things unspoken, the misunderstandings and the reconciliations. There is also a believability in the dialogue that a lot of historical novels miss. No modern linguistic phrases worked their way in.
In sum. An okay read but ultimately one I was glad to finish.