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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
The Ghost Of Lily Painter
By Caitlin Davies
'The Ghost Of Lily Painter' is a richly plotted story that covers many generations and has action set over more than a century. It follows the tale of Annie Sweet, who moves into a new house and becomes intrigued by the story of a previous inhabitant – Lily Painter – and determined to find out more about her.
The narrative moves between the voices of Annie Sweet, Lily Painter and Inspector William George who lived in the house at the same time as Lily. Later in the book, a fourth voice joins them and delivers some beautifully set-up surprises. The four voices all tell their stories in a different way, and a way that is distinctively theirs.
Caitlin Davies uses threads of historical fact to enhance the story. She explores the activities of baby farmers in Edwardian London to great effect, and blends fact and fiction into a satisfactory whole.
Both the present day story of Annie and the historical story of Lily are emotional and touched with pain. When we first meet Annie she’s dealing with marital breakdown, the fallout of this for her daughter, and a dog that seems set on destroying everything in her path. Lily’s story ultimately takes her into even more painful situations.
Everything about this novel is just right. The characters are believable and sympathetic, the descriptive writing is beautiful and the evocation of the different historical periods is spot on.
I think this is a book I’m going to be reflecting on long after finishing it.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt
‘The Ghost Of Lily Painter’ is published by Hutchinson/Random House and I am grateful to them for the review copy.