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The House of Ashes

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Member Reviews

The House of Ashes holds many agonizing secrets of the past and the present which are revealed as the reader travels back to 60 years ago and learns of previous human abuse while reveling in present spousal abuse at the hands of the powerful.. The suffering and neglect were difficult to read about and I was cheering for the underdogs
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Neville told the story from the main characters point of view as we see physically and abused characters tell their story from the house.  Well told!  We learn to love the characters as we put ourselves in their shoes and really want to learn how their story ended.  So many parallels in the life of Damien compared to George and Tam.  I recommend reading it, you won't want to put it down!
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A compelling, gothic story about abuse and murder, The House of Ashes is told from different points of view, and through two different timelines that converge in a house called The Ashes, in Northern Island.
This very old house hides a painful past. When Sara and his husband Damien decide to move from Bath to Northern Island, that past will reemerge, and with it, the suffering and torment of the people that lived in the house, as well as their tragic ending. 
On their first night in the newly remodeled house, an old lady, covered in blood, comes to Sara's door insisting that the house is hers. She is Mary, who lived there 50 years ago and is now living in a care home. 

 Natural and supernatural elements coexist and act together to bring back that hidden past to bring some justice. 
 The book is also about strong female bonds and the possibility to start a new life, regardless of age and social position.
 I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it if you are in the mood for an atmospheric reading that will set your mind for spookier books this Halloween season. 

Fascinating writing and characters development.
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an early read!  I have never read Stuart Neville before.  He typically writes hardboiled crime novels, which are not usually my thing.  But The House of Ashes is a standalone, about two women, so I thought I would give it a try.  Sara and her husband Damian have just moved into The Ashes, a house literally raised from the ashes of a recent fire.  On their first night there, they are awakened by an old woman named Mary at the door, convinced that the house is hers.  Damian takes her back to her care home, but Sara is curious and starts wondering about the house.  She visits Mary at the care home to learn more.  Their meeting is a catalyst for both women.  Sara begins to accept the truth- that she is in an abusive relationship, and Damian has brought her here to isolate her further from everything that is familiar.  Mary begins to remember the past – she grew up in that house, her, Mummy Joy and Mummy Noreen were prisoners of the three men who owned the house.  Something terrible happened there and each woman will have a reckoning with that truth.  It’s a ghost story, it’s a mystery, and I will say that is is a dark tale.  It’s a story filled with violence and with resilience.  I can’t compare it to his other work, but Neville has done a good job of bringing these women to life, capturing their anger, despair, and eventually hope.  If you like Benjamin Black or Fiona Berry, then give this one by Stuart Neville a try.
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The House of Ashes is a mysterious story of abuse, isolation and emotional ghosts. The storyline was dark and disturbing than I thought it would be but the uncomplicated writing made it easy to read through the chapters. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these women. Although fiction, the stuff they went through was significantly painful to read. The haunting ghostly parts with underlying meaning were brilliantly written. This sure is one of a kind story, that crime and dark thriller lovers will enjoy. 

Thank you Soho Crime via Netgalley for the arc.
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Stuart Neville's first novel in five years, a stand-alone, is set in rural Northern Ireland, and, like his early novels, is populated by the ghosts of old, suppressed, and violent acts. These ghosts do not arise from the Troubles, that decades long struggle to re-unite the two Irelands in which more non-combatants died than armed participants. The ghosts in THE HOUSE OF ASHES are the shades of children who died of neglect, abuse, or murder over a period of years. They haunt the house in which some sixty years ago they were both born and died, an isolated farmhouse in rural Northern Ireland.
Sixty years ago there were six adults and a child living in that house. The three  women were there against their will, locked in a cellar except when the three men who confined them demanded their domestic or sexual services. With them lived a child, the daughter of one of the men. Now that house is inhabited by a married couple, a local man and his English wife, a woman who has been systematically reduced to a state of fear by her husband's psychological abuse. Alternating chapters tell the story of what happened sixty years earlier and what is happening in the present day.

Although THE HOUSE OF ASHES is a novel that should come festooned with trigger warnings of various sorts, it is nonetheless an absorbing read, one that is difficult to put down and hard to forget. 

Neville has always been a novelist of great promise. Now he has delivered on that promise with a book that is wrenching but in the end does not exploit either our sympathies or our fears.

The full review appears on Reviewing the Evidence::
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After her nervous breakdown, Sara Keane's husband has moved them from England to Northern Ireland. They'll live rent and mortgage-free in an old farmhouse his father purchased. In her new home, Sara has no friends, no car, no job, and no chance to leave the home. Damien wants it that way. He wants her to focus on getting well and not dealing with any distractions. She sees it as being a prisoner.

When an elderly woman appears one day, feet bloody, and crying that this is her home and asking about the children, Sara starts looking into the woman's identity and the home's past. She learns that the home has a terrifying history, and that she and Mary have a lot in common, even if Sara doesn't want to admit it. That is all it takes to start bonding with this woman, even if Damien doesn't want her to learn the truth about this home's past.

The House of Ashes is really a sad, haunting mystery that goes back for 60 years and is told through Sara's perspective and Mary's. It's clear to the reader what happened to Mary in the past, that's not a big secret. There are other parts that are a mystery, some are easily guessed while others are a bit more complex.

When all was said and done, this isn't a book that will be easy to get over. There's so much pain for the characters to get through. With a touch of the supernatural, moments of abuse that have you on the edge of your seat hoping they'll triumph, and other moments that leave you outraged for Sara and Mary, it's a powerful read.
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ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The House of Ashes is a dual timeline narrative of two women who are victims of abuse, both with ties to the house that Sara Keane now lives in with her husband Damian who moved them out to the country after Sara suffered a nervous breakdown. 

Sara's marriage to Damian follows the typical arc of an abusive relationship which unfolds against the backdrop of Mary Jackson's life of imprisonment and torment at the hands of a father and his two sons who have held Mary and two other women captive for decades, keeping them as house slaves and means of sexual gratification. While the writing itself was compelling, it was difficult to connect to Sara and her story as it didn't feel developed in the same way that Mary Jackson's was. The house itself played a much larger part in Mary's narrative so when Sara makes a grisly discovery in the house, it feels very much like something was lost or missed between the two narratives.

Overall it was an enjoyable read but certainly not as captivating as I had hoped.
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This book is really hard to read. It's extremely well written and compelling but in the end way too dark for me. I had to skim read large parts of it because it was just too depressing. I think this will be a fantastic book for some people, but I am not that person.
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Sarah and her husband Damien have recently moved to Ireland from England. When we first meet Sarah she seems so isolated from family and friends. When the book opens Sarah finds an intruder in her house. A woman who claimed that this was her house. Sarah starts to question her husband and on her own researches the history of this house.

As Sarah starts to uncover the history of the house, she might have just opened Pandora’s Box involving her husbands family and the people of this town.

There are trigger warnings for domestic violence in this book. Neville does a pretty good job of peeling back the layers of this story. There is much to unpack throughout. My one complaint is that it felt a little rushed at the end. For such a good story, that kind of ruined it for me.

Thank you NetGalley and Soho Press for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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*** 3.5 Stars ***

Brief Synopsis: Sara and her husband Damien are looking for a fresh start. They have relocated to an isolated countryside home in Northern Ireland and are working to remodel it and make it their own.  Unfortunately this move did not resolve their past issues with physical and emotional abuse.  The previous tenant of their home, Mary, has a harsh story of her own. One that is also full of physical and emotional abuse.  When Sara and Mary’s paths cross, Sara becomes committed to uncovering the secrets and history of her new home.  A history her husband is trying to keep buried. 

Thoughts: The narrative consists of two storylines and is told through the POVs of Sara in the present day and Mary 60 years prior.  I felt sorry for Sara, but my heart literally ached for Mary.  Those emotions stemmed from me feeling like Mary was truly stuck in her situation, whereas Sara seemed to have more control of hers. 
The writing style was fluid, mostly believable, and easy to follow.  I could feel the isolation, hopelessness, grief and overall chilling vibes through the text. At times the dialect in Mary’s storyline was hard for me to decipher.  That said, it made complete sense as to why it was written that way and fit her narrative well. 
Though others have felt this book contained paranormal elements, I perceived those scenes as being psychological in nature and manifestations due to trauma (especially in Mary’s storyline).  The ending was cute. Genuinely sweet… but I did think it left aspects of Sara’s story unresolved.  

Thank you to Stuart Neville, Soho Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this book.   It was a good mystery/thriller containing murder, violence, and resilience.
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This one is dark, oh so dark! Set in Northern Ireland, if there is a genre for Irish noir, I would place this book there. Featuring dual storylines, ghosts, and a mystery, this one was a compelling read.

The modern-day storyline features Sara and Damien, recently moved to Damien’s homeland of Northern Ireland for a fresh start and clean slate after her mental health issues. We get glimpses into Sara’s past when she was a happier woman with friends from college and a job. This was before Damien came into her life and took those things slowly away.

The storyline from the past features Mary and several other women who used to live in the house that Sara and Damien are remodeling. Mary’s early life was a violent and terrible one and these passages were extremely difficult to read.

These two storylines show that many women have a rough road in life and there are men who are dominating and violent.

While this one was very dark, it was compelling, and I had to keep reading to find out what would happen. The ending definitely leaves some things unresolved, and this reader hopes for the best for all involved, especially Sara and Mary! They deserve some happiness and peace.
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The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville


305 Pages:
Publisher: Soho Press / Soho Crime
Release Date: September 7, 2021

Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller, Domestic Violence, Kidnapping, Ghosts

Could a house be evil or is it just the people that live there? There are two stories happening within the book. Mary Jackson grew up in this house without knowing the outside world. When a fire happens, she is deemed incapable of caring for herself and is moved to a care home. Francie Keane bought his son, Damien, and daughter-in-law, Sara, a house - Mary's house.One morning, Sara is in the kitchen when an old woman bangs on the window and starts yelling at her. Mary believes it is still her home and wants Sara to leave. Damien hears the fuss and takes Mary back to the care home. This experience upsets Sara and makes her question everything. 

They had moved to the house in Northern Ireland from England after she had a mental breakdown, quit her job as a social worker, and left her family and friends. Damien is her husband, or should I say keeper. He has a strong emotional hold over her and she feels helpless until she meets Mary.

This book is disturbing but I could not stop reading it. Some people do not realize that domestic violence does not have to be physical as in Sara’s case. Mary’s story about growing up in the house is horrific to say the least but I am sure this type of thing happens all the time. The book is written in third person point of view from multiple perspectives. The characters are very developed, and the story is fast paced. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys mysteries and survivor stories.
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The themes of rape, abuse, along with the high level of graphic violence and constantly changing points of view made this a miss for me.

Thanks for the opportunity to read this novel. I appreciate the writing and story development. Most readers will appreciate this more than I did.
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Suspense at its best. Told in alternating voices the reader learns about the secrets hidden in the history of a young wife's new home and the "crazy" lady who shows up the day the young couple moves in. Although I sometimes found it difficult to read on, I still couldn't put this book down. As the abuse and terror is revealed, the tension builds page after page. There are several twists and turns, but the emotional toll on the characters (and the reader) is really the pull of the story. Loved it!
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The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville is a highly recommended ominous, malevolent novel of psychological suspense.

After her nervous breakdown, Sara Keane's husband Damien moved them from England to Northern Ireland into a house called the Ashes that his father bought for them. Damien has been isolating Sara from her friends since the beginning and this move makes that separation complete. Damien is emotionally abusive and threatening to Sara and this has increased over the years. When Mary Jackson, an old woman, pounds on the door one morning claiming that the Ashes is her home and talks about the children, she is taken back to the care facility where she was sent, leaving Sara wondering about the history of the house. Damien dismisses her concerns, but Sara defies him and begins to uncover Mary's past imprisonment at the house as a child and the terrible history of the Ashes.

The writing is excellent in this novel, although the actual subject matter of abuse makes it difficult to read. The dual narrative tells two stories set at the Ashes, that of present day Sara and Mary's story from sixty years ago. Sara is experiencing abuse currently, but the abuse Mary experienced and lived through is chilling, horrific, and evil. Tied into both narrative threads are ghostly apparitions. While the abuse Sara is currently experiencing is awful, Mary's story of abuse is the more terrifying, frightening, and nefarious - so much so that at times it is difficult to read. The

Both Sara and Mary (as a child) are well developed characters and the dual narratives unfold through their individual points-of-view. Sara's a wounded adult experiencing gaslighting and being manipulated, and controlled by her husband. Mary's story is mainly told through the eyes of a child which in many ways makes it so much more powerful and awful because she literally has no way to escape. The outcomes of both dark narratives are violent but necessary to reach the final denouement. The House of Ashes is an exceptional novel but all the violence and wicked behavior also makes it emotionally draining. 4.5 rounded down.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Soho Press/ Penguin Random House.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Amazon.
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This was a dark, forbidding mystery/thriller.  From page one straight through the end you will feel anger and outrage about the abuse suffered by the characters.  Dark and horrifying - I hoped for a better ending.
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This is going to be one of those novels when I'm in the minority, but The House of Ashes is one of the few books I ended up DNF'ing in 2021. Trust me; I went into this book wanting to like it – especially as it has been favorably compared to Gillian Flynn and Tana French.

However, right from the start, I found myself put off. On that note, this reader does start with a trigger warning, especially for cat lovers in the crowd. So consider yourselves warned on that count.
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The House of Ashes is a deeply dark and disturbing book. With dual time lines, we discover the history of The Ashes from the viewpoint of Mary who was abused and a witness to a horrible crime 60 years prior. Past meets present when new home owners Damien and Sara move in and sinister things happen once more.

Parts of this book were graphic and violent. Honestly, I felt white hot rage reading through most of this book. It definitely isn't feel good but I was happy with the ending. TW: abuse, murder, gaslighting, death of children.
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I had hoped for a happier ending, somehow. It was such a tough read as it was despair upon despair. This could be a trigger book for those who have survived similar situations with both rape and abuse. It was a hard read for me and I would have loved some more positive outcomes.
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