The Ruins

A Novel

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Pub Date 05 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 19 Jul 2022


A suspenseful, contemporary Gothic coming-of-age tale with shades of Patricia Highsmith and Atonement, pitched against the sun-soaked backdrop of the French Riviera.

The most dazzling summer casts the darkest shadows.

Welcome to the Chateau des Sètes, a jewel of the Cote d’Azur, where long summer days bring ease, glamour, and decadence to the holidaymakers who can afford it.

Ruby Ashby adores her parents’ house in France, but this August, everything feels different. Unexpected guests have descended upon the chateau––friends of her parents, and their daughters—and they are keen to enjoy the hot, extravagant summer holiday to its fullest potential. Far from England, safe in their wealth and privilege, the adults revel in bad behavior without consequence, while the girls are treated as playthings or abandoned to their own devices. But despite languid days spent poolside and long nights spent drinking, a simmering tension is growing between the families, and the sanctuary that Ruby cherishes soon starts to feel like a gilded cage.

Over two decades later the chateau is for sale, its days of splendor and luxury long gone, leaving behind a terrible history and an ugly legacy. A young widow has returned to France, wanting to purchase the chateau, despite her shocking memories of what transpired that fateful summer. But there is another person who is equally haunted by the chateau, and who also seeks to reclaim it. Who will set the chateau free––and who will become yet another of its victims?

With riveting psychological complexity, Phoebe Wynne's The Ruins captures the tangled legacy of abuse, the glittering allure of the Mediterranean––and the dark shadows that wait beneath the surface of both.

A suspenseful, contemporary Gothic coming-of-age tale with shades of Patricia Highsmith and Atonement, pitched against the sun-soaked backdrop of the French Riviera.

The most dazzling summer casts the...

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ISBN 9781250272065
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Featured Reviews

This engrossing, coming-of-age-story is set in the Ashby family Chateau located on the French Riviera over the course of the summer of 1985. The Ashby family epitomize the upper-class arrogance of travelling Brits abroad. Toby Ashby refers to the villagers as “peasants’, and explains, “The British abroad bring a great deal to their economy. They need us. They certainly need me.”

This book is a psychological suspense in the gothic vein filled with gin-soaked, pompous, entitled (and titled), spoiled adults who ignore and abuse the children; failing to protect them or show appropriate affection.
Ruby Ashby is the only child of barrister Toby, and multiple-committee’d, fragile, changeable mother, Rhoda. She is on the cusp of adolescence, experiencing her first crush and changing body. Her father is mostly absent, and her mother worries mostly about her appearance and manners; constantly commenting on what Ruby eats and how her clothes are getting tight.

At first, Ruby comes across as jealous, judgmental, and condescending as she is informed that two girls will be spending their summer at the Chateau. However, it is only a matter of time before you realize that Ruby has never experienced closeness with anyone and is unaware of how to interact with her peers. She is lonely and alone Through Ruby’s eyes, we experience the inexplicable debauchery and lecherous actions of the adults as they drink, fight, and paw at Ruby and one of the other girls.

The backdrop to Ruby’s story is a car accident caused by two of their guests. Toby Ashby’s experience as a barrister brings him in close contact with the officials and “peasants” of the village. This plus the residents’ behavior, start a visible rift—visible to all but the British adults—that will eventually affect their stay at the chateau.

As the summer heats up, so does the story, and possibly your blood pressure. The behavior of the adults towards the girls affected me. Two of the male characters take every opportunity to accost the girls: pulling them onto their laps, feeling them up, calling them names, and speaking in inuendo. At a dinner in St. Tropez, Harley (the worst of the two) states, “Oh the burdens of daughters, and you can’t even deflower them yourselves! Don’t you think fathers should be the ones to do the honors”.

As I read this book, I found myself wondering, how will this end? Is anyone going to break? And if so, whom will it be? I was caught up in worrying about Ruby, the inexplicable adults, and the growing suspense as it built up to a storm.

I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review this riveting book.

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