Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster
Author: Sara Foster
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Yorkshire / Missing Person / New Mother / Isolation / Gothic )
Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Grace returns to Yorkshire a year after her husband's disappearance in hopes of finding answers.
Reading Challenges: A-to-Z, E-book, NetGalley
Do I like the cover?: Oh, I do, I do -- how creepy is it? Pretty much that's the opening scene, too!
I'm reminded of...: Rosamund Lupton, Jennifer McMahon
First line: They should be home.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a wintry thriller!
Why did I get this book?: I love gothic-y novels set in Yorkshire!
Review: For an innocuous thriller, this book provoked a lot of emotion in me, and gave me much to chew over in terms of my expectations of a book, a heroine, and a story. The premise of this book is simple: Grace, new mom, has moved to rural Yorkshire with her husband and their three-month old daughter. One wintry evening, she comes home to a note from her husband, saying he has something to tell her. She waits, and waits, and later finds her daughter in the pram outside of their cottage, husband gone.
He never returns.
A year later, Grace returns to the cottage to try to put it in order and decide what to do. Husband still missing, she's unable to sell the cottage, and she's scared at the future she faces. Does she move on? Hold out hope? The police suggest her husband simply abandoned them but Grace is reluctant to accept that in light of what she feels is the evidence of his happiness with them. Complicating matters is the ghostly nature of the Yorkshire moors, her odd neighbors,
Sounds pretty fascinating, right? The thing with stories like this, however, is that the heroine really needs to be able to carry the weight of a story. When the entire focus is on her -- her thoughts, her fears, her apprehensions, her decisions -- she's got to be pretty compelling to keep the story interesting and for me, Grace was just okay. Foster's writing is lovely -- I certainly 'felt' the moors and the poky cottage and the weird neighbors -- but I found Grace a bit bland. We're told she's compelling and interesting -- she and her husband had a glittering life in London, her best mate has been in love with her, the new handyman clearly has the hots for her -- and yet, I didn't see much evidence of Grace's magnetism. Foster certainly showed me a woman wracked with insecurity, frozen with fear, made passive by the looming unknown of her future, and all that resonated.
The pacing of this book is slow, which was maddening at times but also delightfully stressful (in a good way). Foster hints at other gothic-y dramas in this story -- Grace reads Rebecca and thinks of the handyman as a kind of Heathcliff -- and the mood and ambiance is one of waiting, agonized waiting. At one point, I was surprised to discover I was halfway through the book because it still all felt like build up to the real story, the point where Grace would start investigating her husband's disappearance, and instead, all we got was her unpacking boxes, dealing with her flashy sister, and running into the handsome handyman. By the time we got to the ah-ha! reveal, I was relieved to know, but it came a little to late in the story for my tastes.
Still, this was a promising novel that had ambiance in spades and I'll be keeping an eye out for Foster's other novels -- this was a creepy armchair escape.