The Shifting Fog – Kate Morton

Allen & Unwin 2006 – ISBN 978 1 74114 800 8

Summer 1924:

On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life.  The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

 Winter 1999:

Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide.  Ghosts awaken and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks.  A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

It took me a little while to get into this story, but once I did, I enjoyed it.  The story revolves around two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline and a young maid who unwittingly becomes their friend.  We meet the girls while they are still young, before the events of World War One tore the family apart.

Grace has her own secrets which her mother won’t tell her about, and it is only upon her mother’s death that Grace manages to work it out.

Entwined in the story is a love story involving Grace and a footman from Riverton Manor, and a love triangle involving the two sisters and the Poet, Robert Hunter.

The story flicks from Grace as a 98 year old recording her memoirs for her grandson, and her own memories of the events that led up to that fateful night in 1924.

The characters were well developed and likeable.  I found myself feeling sorry for the two sisters who both led such different and separate lives, yet had once been so close.  There are dark moments in the story and a hint of suspicion on every page.  It took me a while to work out that this was a modern Gothic novel, but it fitted in with the morbid themes very well.

The setting was well written and well researched too, it was nice to read a story involving the interaction of the upper class with their serving staff.  If you like Downtown Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, you will enjoy this story.

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