Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.
Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.
Who is the child and what really happened that day?
One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.
What a dark, twisted and absolutely addictive tale this is! And quite a surprise as I was expecting more of a generic psychological thriller (not sure why exactly). I’m so glad that this book ended up being exactly as it was… because it completely absorbed me! I started casually wondering if it would be a hit, and ended up unable to put it down.
The narrative is set in two timeframes (something I love in a story, so that’s a good start!) – the 1990s, when a young nanny is employed by a wealthy couple in Norfolk to look after their son, Edwin, and the present day, when Seraphine (Edwin’s younger sister) starts to wonder if she really is who she thinks she is. The characters are convincing and feel genuine – I really liked Seraphine and her brothers, and in the past narrative I also found myself warming to Laura, despite some of her questionable decisions… she’s a young, impressionable girl, after all, and those around her at the time certainly don’t behave as they perhaps should have.
Emma Rous has managed to create such a sense of atmosphere across this novel; everything to do with Summerbourne feels tense and mysterious. I loved the way that the reader slowly uncovers more details through both Laura and Seraphine, as we’re teased with certain details (which I won’t give away here) that really play with, and contradict, the supposed version of events back then. There’s lots of secrets, deception and the book is a beautiful blend of so many elements and genres – the Gothic, historical fiction, psychological suspense, mystery…
A truly addictive read!
Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review