The Marsh House
by Zoe Somerville
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Pub Date 03 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2022
Head of Zeus, Apollo
Desperate to salvage something from a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast for Christmas. But once there, the strained silence between her and her daughter, Franny, feels louder than ever. Digging for decorations in the attic, she comes across the notebooks of the teenaged Marianne, who lived in the house years before. Though she knows she needs to focus on the present, Malorie finds herself inexorably drawn into the past...
Marianne lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So when the glamorous Lafferty family move to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Marianne fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades...
As Malorie reads on, the boundaries between past and present begin to blur, in this haunting novel about family, obligation and deeply buried secrets.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 37 members
I read this book over the Halloween weekend and it seems completely appropriate. Lives filled with ghosts and secrets, howling wind, drifts of snow, death, darkness - all consumed me as I forgot about food, chores and obligations, lost in the worlds of Malorie and Rosemary. If you read Somerville’s ‘Night of the Flood’ and loved it, I can guarantee, that her second book will exceed your expectations. I love the first book, but this felt like reading a modern classic with hints of Du Maurier as she weaves a sinister tale of two women and their lives in Norfolk. I can’t say too much as it would give away the tightly woven plot, but the writing is exquisite, the characters so engaging and the detail so perfect that I can’t recommend it highly enough. A really wonderful read and I hope it gets the recognition it so thoroughly deserves.
Zoë Somerville’s second novel, The Marsh House, switches between two timelines, both set against the backdrop of the eponymous house built in the North Norfolk coast.
The novel’s “present” is December 1962. Still nursing her wounds following a painful marriage breakdown, Malorie decides to spend Christmas with her little daughter Franny at a remote house in Norfolk. She chooses her destination on a whim, solely because, judging from a photo given to her before her mother’s death, it seems that the building has some mysterious connection with her parents’ past. In the old attic, Malorie discovers notebooks in which Rosemary, a woman who had lived at the house over three decades before, relates her tragic story. The second plot timeline is, in fact, provided by the content of these notebooks, which describe a local tragedy which unfolded in the politically charged period between the two great wars. As Malorie becomes more and more engrossed with Rosemary’s tale, she increasingly feels that she is being haunted by its protagonists.
The Marsh House borrows many Gothic and horror tropes, with the most obvious being the setting – a rundown mansion at the verge of the Norfolk marshes, redolent of Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst. As in the best supernatural tales, the novel plays on the element of doubt – are the Malorie’s visions otherworldly in nature, or simply the creation of an overworked, troubled, altered mind? The fluidity between past and present sometimes makes this more of a timeslip novel (that, and the Christmas context reminded me at times of Alison Littlewood’s Mistletoe.)
Atmospheric and creepy as The Marsh House is, I ultimately felt that it works best as a piece of vividly conceived historical fiction which can be read and enjoyed even without the supernatural trappings. This is a novel which looks into unsavoury aspects of the inter-war years, particularly the rise of pro-Nazi sentiment in Britain. Without any facile condemnations, Somerville depicts families falling under the spell of a hateful ideology and the cruel consequences of this, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world which is turning its back on the rural wisdom of its elders.
A great read with the past and present timelines and how they interlink.
Some wonderfully gothic scenes. Shocking, dark, and some surprising reveals.
Told through an interesting mix of past and present, the story provides an insight into the challenges faced by women in the past. A slave to their husband’s will and only respected depending on their ability to produce children. The Marsh House is a ghost story with a difference. Malorie, the main character of present day is not very likeable and seems to be in constant battle with her daughter Franny, for what reason, I was still baffled by the end of the book.
The journals written by Rosemary documenting her trials with her new husband and the loss of her children were heart-wrenching and very well written. An interesting tale of two worlds coming together in an explosive finish of suffering and compassion from beyond the grave.
I’ve recently read a few gothic horror novels but none of them had me on the edge of my seat like The Marsh House. The latest book by Zoe Somerville, The Marsh House, is listed as a mystery and historical novel, which it is certainly. is However, Somerville successfully conjures up a menace and tension that many other books lack. I started reading this late at night and genuinely couldn’t put it down until I’d finally reached the end!
The story follows Malorie, a young woman who flees her failing marriage to spend Christmas in an isolated cottage on the Norfolk coast. Determined to make Christmas magical for her young daughter, Malorie goes into the attic to find decorations. However, whilst there, she finds the diary of a young girl, Marianne, who lived in the house thirty years before. Marianne is a shy and naive country girl but when the wealthy Lafferty family moves to the village, she becomes enchanted by their beauty and glamour...with disastrous consequences.
Isolated by a December storm, Malorie becomes fixated on the diary and determined to find out what really happened to Marianne.
Somerville skilfully evokes the bleak beauty of the Norfolk coast and the class tensions of the 1930s to create book that will have you on tenterhooks!
I couldnt put this book down I really enjoyed it. It was gripping all the way through and written so well that it grabs hold of the reader and engages them the whole way through the novel. It was creppy and atmospheric with an almost gothic feel. A really good read.
Reading the Marsh House felt like reading a modern classic, and I was often transported into the world of Daphne du Maurier, who truly is, for me, the queen of atmospheric, suspenseful, spooky Gothic fiction. A ghost story with a twist, the Marsh House contains some genuinely creepy scenes and, for me, beautifully blended everything I love about the Gothic, romance, ghost stories, and haunted house stories. Some of these scenes and their themes were also heavy and dark, and I did find myself a bit disturbed and certainly very empathetic towards many of the characters, as I could relate to some of the situations and emotions.
Somerville creates such a stifling, oppressive atmosphere even in the space that is supposed to represent freedom for her protagonist. I loved watching the mother-daughter relationship develop between Malorie and Franny, while delving deeper through the narrative into themes of motherhood and the physical, mental, and emotional toll of becoming a mother, or parent in general. I think that the protagonist represents some of the struggles of postpartum depression and anxiety disorders so perfectly and I truly felt many of her emotions and thoughts resonated with me and my own experience.
Sometimes, the inclusion of a device such as a journal or letters to present another timeline can feel a bit contrived, but Somerville skillfully wove Rosemary's tale into the story both for Malorie and the reader. I never felt that her diary entries were forced or out of place, and I really enjoyed the experience of reading Rosemary's account alongside Malorie.
I absolutely loved the book and highly recommend it!
A great novel!
Full of detail, a spooky marsh house, a history in its walls and secrets waiting to be shared.
The writing is very atmospheric and I was drawn into this setting and story very early on. I was fascinated to learn about why this house was so important and what it meant to those who lived there, now and in the past.
I am definitely going to read whatever Zoe writes next as this is the kind of book you sink into and explore from within.
Set in a remote part of the North Norfolk coast in the great freeze of 1962 -1963, this is an atmospheric spooky tale of two lonely women. Malorie, has left her husband and taken her daughter from London to spend Christmas at Marsh House. There is some connection as her father left her a photograph of the house but no one in the area has heard of him. While looking in the attic for Christmas decorations, she discovers journals written by Rosemary who lived in the house in the 1930s.
The tale is told by both women as Malorie struggles to provide a happy Christmas for her daughter and we also hear Rosemary’s story through her journal entries. The eerie atmosphere is conveyed brilliantly by the author, even down to the fact that the house was built from the wreck of a ship which makes it an unhappy place. Both women are lonely and are at the mercy of the men in their lives. They both try to take control but in very different ways and with very different outcomes.
This is a great gothic mystery with a very strong sense of time and place. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
What appears from the off to be a ghostly, haunting tale turns out to be a work of historical fiction with a hint of Agatha Christie suspense at its core. It is a spellbinding witches’ brew that had me gripped from start to finish. The author splendidly captures the characters and customs (part of me ached for the traditions of yesteryear), the provincial setting and the significant political and socio-economic changes of the interbellum period. A great read!
My thanks as ever to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for granting this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
A very atmospheric ghost story. The setting was perfect for the tale with both timelines equally captivating (1930s & 1960s); in fact the 'past' characters were sometimes more vivid than the present ones. Perhaps the main character's behaviour seemed unbelievable at times, but it's fiction after all. I'll definitely keep an eye out for more Zoe Somerville.
Ideal for fans of novels with a historical setting, in this case 1930s and 1960s.
A few days before Christmas 1962, Malorie moves into a remote house in Norfolk, known as the Marsh House. As she searches the attic for Christmas decorations, hoping to make the place look festive for her young daughter, she comes across some exercise books - the memoir of Rosemary who writes about her time as an impressionable young girl living at the Marsh House in the early thirties.
As snow falls at the start of the Big Freeze, Malorie reads the pages and learns not only about Rosemary but also some life lessons for herself.
With thanks to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.
Zoe Somerville's historical debut was an atmospheric exploration of a secret base in Norfolk and a tangled love story. This follow up book is also set in an atmospheric historical Norfolk and has spooky ghostly elements. It follows Malorie, who has fled London and her marriage one Christmas night to find refuge in The Marsh House, where she is convinced that she will uncover a family secret hinted at by her mother, before she died. Malorie, recently bereaved, and with a history of post-natal depression in a time when this was less understood than these days, has her daughter and her dog with her, but the Marsh House is gloomy, secretive and they are subsequently snowed in so unable to leave. Fortunately, there is help available from local villagers and a mysterious neighbour in a rundown cottage nearby.
The book is very good at keeping up the spooky atmosphere - I did have to stop reading it late at night, just in case it was too much for my overactive imagination - and she does also examine how attitudes towards women have been a really poisonous way of controlling spirited girls and women. I also found the references to Oswald Mosely and the English fascist movement interesting, but this wasn't the focus of the book.
I enjoyed this - it's a deftly written novel, perfect for dark cold nights.
When I read that Zoe Somerville had been inspired by the 1960s book When Marnie Was There, I knew I had to read her latest novel, as Marnie was also one of my favourites as a child, In that spirit, The Marsh House has a bewitchingly nostalgic air, with strong voices from the 1930s and the 1960s (it has a dual timeline, introduced in an interesting way, through found diaries). The sense of both time and place are so strong and the characters stayed in my mind long after I'd finished.
I also felt this book had the air of a period film, the sort of old-fashioned 1940s classic you'd curl up and watch on a Sunday afternoon. It's every bit as enjoyable and escapist and, at times, unsettling as a Hitchcock classic. Yet it also brings in themes that resonate today, including coercive relationships, deeply ingrained class attitudes and a fear of 'otherness' in many forms.
And then there's the timeless, always compelling theme of how ghosts from the past can follow us, with certain patterns can be repeated through the ages. Zoe Somerville evokes such a strong sense of place that the East Anglian landscape is a presence as haunting and vivid as her characters. Recommended.
Part ghost story, part suspense, and all gothic novel, The Marsh House is Zoe Somerville's second book. Like The Night of the Flood, her first, this too is set in Norfolk, full of atmosphere and I absolutely loved it!
December, 1962. Desperate to create a happy Christmas for her young daughter, Franny, after a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast. As Malorie digs for decorations in the attic, she discovers notebooks belonging to Rosemary, who lived in the house thirty years before. Trapped inside by a blizzard (The Big Freeze of 1963), Malorie starts reading . Although she knows she needs to focus on her daughter and the present, she finds herself relentlessly pulled into the past...
July, 1931. Rosemary lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken family secrets and rumours. Once a glamorous family move to the village, she is easily charmed by the beautiful Hilda Lafferty and her rakish brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger hiding behind their 'bright young things' facade.
As Malorie reads Rosemary's diary, past and present begin to blur in a story of mothers and daughters, daughters and their fathers, and the obligations and deeply buried secrets of family."
The Marsh House beautifully , conjures the North Norfolk coast, which is unsurprising due to the author's familiarity with the area. The novel is delicately unsettling rather than scary. It's deftly constructed with it's dual time line. It's not only a mystery novel, but also is full of suspense, crime, secrets and romance. Is it the effect of The Marsh House on Malorie or is it Malorie's state of mind which is easily affected?
As with all my favourite books it has a wonderful sense of place and time, full of period detail and it evokes a real sense of traditional folk and country law. Oh and there's also lots of books, particularly those by Agatha Christie!
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for providing a digital ARC for review.
I simply loved this book. In fact, a finished copy arrived through the post and I started browsing the first page then couldn’t stop reading. So I read it straight through, finishing at 2am. It’s a split timeline story, beginning with Malorie and her daughter deciding to spend Christmas in a cottage on the Norfolk coast after an argument with her boyfriend. Malorie feels like a bad mother and wants to get one thing right - an idyllic holiday cottage Christmas for her daughter. Maybe if she achieves this one thing, she can convince herself she’s not as useless as she imagines. The sense of foreboding hits the reader immediately as the weather promises snow and Malorie becomes disoriented in the fog. She skids and ends up wedged into a hedge. The Marsh House itself is damp, dark and neglected. They cannot even see the sea through the mist. Malorie begins to wonder if this is a bad idea, but finds a pair of journals in the attic while searching for Christmas decorations, and she begins to read. Written by a young woman called Rosemary, who lived in the house, the journals tell a tale of a young woman’s crush on the boy from the big house. This young woman’s story paints a picture of 1930’s rural Norfolk, becoming a young mum and her husband’s link to fascism and Oswald Moseley in particular. Malorie can’t put the journals down, but alongside the house’s strange atmosphere, they are having an effect on her sleep and her state of mind.
I felt for Malorie straight away and her sprite of a daughter. Malorie is very hard on herself and has a negative inner voice, not helped by an over critical partner at home. Here she is capable, ordering logs and a turkey, rigging up a Christmas tree with vintage ornaments from the loft, and even managing real candles in their holders. However, even when she’s barely started the journals, the locals are giving her the house’s sordid history. That whiff of fascism becomes stronger when Malorie finds leaflets in the attic and the girl in the village shop asks if she knows what happened at The Marsh House? Tales of lost cocklers cut off by the tide that can still be heard screaming in the fog don’t help her state of mind. The house itself holds some scary relics too including a weird picture of women who perhaps lived here, one with bright green eyes that bore into you. I loved how the author drip fed these little bits of information, adding to the house’s history but also to the creepy tension that keeps building. It’s Malorie’s kinship with Rosemary, the writer of the journals, that drives the story forwards. The more she understands about the writer’s life, the more confused she becomes between fantasy and reality leading to some truly terrifying visions in the night. Why does she feel so connected with someone she’s never met who lived here thirty years before? Who is the strange woman with the large dog she sees from time to time, and why does she seem to be looking after the family by leaving logs to keep them warm?
I did enjoy Rosemary’s story too, her innocent crush on ?? who comes from the family at the big house. She fantasises about what it would be like to have him like her too, to kiss her on the cheek and choose her above the more well to do girls in society. There does seem to be a part of him that is attracted to Rose, but she might also suit his purposes - a compliant country wife at home to keep the line going while he gallivants in London with Moseley’s social circle. Having read a bit about the Mitford sisters and Unity in particular, I had already known how popular fascism was in the ranks of the aristocracy and how some of our great country houses were used as meeting places for talks on appeasing Hitler. I hadn’t known of it’s hold in Norfolk and found this aspect of the book interesting. As time goes on and Rosemary is treated very badly by ?? it was clear that something terrible was going to happen, but the final revelations are truly shocking. I loved the way she delved into the complicated, emotional experience of becoming a mother. She opens up the inner world of these women, with their constant questioning of whether they’re good enough, or are they failing at this job we’re led to believe should come naturally? There is a special skill in weaving real historical events with fiction and this author is so talented and creative. She brings this area of England to life and makes the reader want to visit and search it out for themselves. The atmosphere was so evocative I spent two days with a ‘book hangover’ - unable to start another book because my emotions and senses were so embedded in Malorie’s story. I loved this so much I could have happily gone back to the first page and read it over again.
This will be part of the blog tour next month
I was drawn to the Marsh House because I love a good ghost story and because the book is set in Norfolk, where I was born and spent my childhood. Yet as well as those two elements, it's also historical fiction with dual timelines from the 1960s and the 1930s.
The story was a bit of a slow burn initially, but once it got hold and Malorie starts to explore the notebooks of Rosemary found in the attic, I couldn't wait to continue to find out more.
It's certainly atmospheric and the landscape and weather play a key role in the plot. The Marsh House is in a remote area, giving a sense of isolation. The swirling mists and snow give us a sense of the cold and add mystery as Malorie questions the sightings of others on the marsh. As the story unravels we find out the heartbreaking impact of Rosemary's involvement with the Lafferty family who move into the area. While reading the notebooks, there's certainly a blurring of what's real and imagined for Malorie linked to her own instability and circumstances, culminating in a coming together of the current and the past.
This has a gothic feel and creepiness to it and I enjoyed how the past became entangled with the present.
An excellent gothic novel, a dual timeline, and the doubt it what the MC is experience is paranormal or delusiong.
Gripping, creepy, and riveting.
I loved this story that kept me hooked and on the edge.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Set in 1962 and the 1930s this is a completely addictive novel. Elements of the supernatural, historical fact and family mystery are expertly woven together with suspense at the centre of the plot. The atmosphere created for both timelines is perfect, especially snow bound winter of 1962.
Trapped by the snow, Malorie is reading notebooks written by Rosemary in the 30s. She feels a real connection and wonders if there is something she must learn from them.
The characters are very well drawn and the writing really conjures up a sense of time and place. I loved it.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks to Head of Zeus, Netgalley and the author for an ARC of this book. I have not been compensated for this review and am leaving it voluntarily.
This is a beautifully written tale about family relationships and the debts we owe to the past. I really enjoyed the way the two stories of Malorie and Rosemary were woven together. In particular, I enjoyed the way the author built up the tension. The book was extremely atmospheric. it happened to be raining a lot when I read this and the gloominess of my environment was the perfect background to reading this book.
The only thing I disliked were some of Malorie's choices, which I found to be less authentic than Rosemary's story. Apart from that small thing, this is a thrilling gothic tale - a perfect Fall read.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book. I have chosen to write this honest review voluntarily.
This creepy tale is set around Christmas but it's far from a Christmas story! The dual timeline links two women who are in unhappy marriages with philandering husbands. Both women seem to have mental health problems following events in their lives so a great deal of unhappiness is at the centre of their thoughts and provides an undercurrent to their stories. Rosemary's story is revealed slowly to Malorie as she reads notebooks found in a room of Marsh House, an old house full of damp, scratching creatures and possibly ghosts. It's enough to set the readers' hair on end! The plot is interesting and the narrative cleverly conveys a sense of unease throughout the book until the final conclusion, an unexpected twist. If you enjoy ghostly tales you'll definitely enjoy this.
I loved this book, atmospheric, unsettling, gothic and a great plot. Told with a dual timeline, we are with Malorie and her young daughter Frannie starting just before Christmas in 1962 and we are also in July 1930 via journals found in the attic. I really enjoyed the different voices and felt very immersed in each world.
Malorie and Frannie are in a rented house in Norfolk, right by the marsh, escaping a marriage on the rocks. When Malorie finds the journals and begins to read, she slowly becomes obsessed with what happened there in the past. As Rosemary's story slowly unfolds, we are drawn into the world of the 1930's and the glamorous Lafferty family who live in the Old Hall in the tiny village. They are a family of influence, in London for the season, returning to their remote country pile for the summers. Rosemary's father meets the Colonel and is immediately beguiled by both him and the growing British Union of Fascists, Oswald Moseley and the blackshirt movement. I loved that the Mitfords made an apperance. The historical parts are very well told, clearly lots of research. Rosemary is taken under the wing of the daughter, Hilda, and is charmed by the son, Franklin, which ultimately doesn't end well.
The two women had quite distinct voices and I also enjoyed the cold, bleak winter we experinced with Malorie, contrasting with the heat of the summer back in the thirties. The weather was a character in itself. Same village, same house, same old woman watching from the cottage on the edge of the marsh, two different experieces. There were quite a few spooky and superntural elements, used to great effect, plus the elements of witchcraft from Janey in the old cottage.
There are some common themes between the two women, mother figures and fathers, dreadful husbands, family obligations, secrets and also about the truth being revealed. As Malorie becomes more obsessed with the journals, she delves more and more into the past whilst hiding from or ignoring the present. It is certainly part suspense and part ghost story, very cleverly both.
The area of the Norfolk coast is captured beautifully, as is the period detail of both timelines. It has a wonderful sense of place and time and there is a real sense of traditional folk and the ways and traditions of the countryside. I jut loved it and found it completely absorbing, it will stay with me and I highly recommend.
Just finished this fabulous new book by @zoesomervillewrites
while squirrelled under my duvet and imagining snowstorms. Such a good read. Fact and folklore are beautifully blended into an incredibly unsettling tale and once again, this is set in Norfolk.
December, 1962. Desperate to salvage something from a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast for Christmas. But once there, the strained silence between her and her daughter, Franny, feels louder than ever. Digging for decorations in the attic, she comes across the notebooks of the teenaged Rosemary, who lived in the house years before. Though she knows she needs to focus on the present, Malorie finds herself inexorably drawn into the past. July, 1931. Rosemary lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So when the glamorous Lafferty family move to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades.
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