2019 is treating me well. Thanks to Fledgling Press, I have discovered a fabulously talented author who destroyed all my preconceived ideas about ghosts and history…
Author: Helen Grant
Publisher: Fledgling Press
Date of publication: 2018
Number of pages: 416
“Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.”
Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between – everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.
One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone.Then Tom McAllister arrives – good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart. As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?
In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning…
Once in a while, we stumble upon a book. We don’t know why but we are drawn to it. This is what happened to me with Ghost by Helen Grant.
Of course, cover love was in the air. A grainy white sheet of paper bearing a typewritten title accompanied by an old golden key, like a personalised invitation to another world.
Stepping into Augusta’s world is like coming out of a time machine. Welcome to the 1940s. World War II’s shadow hangs above Langlands house, the remote estate the seventeen years old girl lives in with her grandmother. I don’t read books set in this period because my great-grandmother shared true stories and memories of those years with me and I am always afraid that no author can meet my expectations and what I imagined the world to be during this awful time. I remember shivering when I realised I was right in the middle of it. But then something strange happened. I literally felt I was there, in this time and place with Augusta McAndrew. Amazing descriptions of a room, a garden, a decade, with its particularities and its mindset, made me forget all about my hesitation. I was reading the book as if it were lit by candles and I was wearing a shawl, alone in a big cold family house. Helen Grant captures a time and her reader, she puts them together in a jar, and fills it with a beautifully written plot.
Ghost could be categorised as a locked-in novel. Augusta doesn’t leave her house. The setting becomes part of the plot as everything revolves around it. In the middle of nowhere, she is safe from what awaits outside. Only her grandmother dares trip to the town to shop whenever necessary. I could feel the resplendent house’s protection just as well as the claustrophobia such a lonely life creates. The dark yet gorgeous atmosphere reminded me of the best gothic novels of the XIXe. I know little about historical fiction, but Ghost had such an impact on me it was difficult to tear myself away from the novel and its characters. I was in a bubble made of dresses, simple meals, chores, and the thoughts of a teenager so different from our days’ worries. I didn’t want to leave. Yet, there was trepidation. Dread. An uneasy feeling I felt creep under my skin. Something was going on…
The dread is all around Augusta, innocent and sweet child who hasn’t seen what the world has to offer. Augusta is the perfect gothic lady. So, when the house opened its door to Tom McAllister, I knew I would dive into drama led by a tragic heroine. Tom’s appearance threatens Augusta’s life as she’s known it for her entire life. More than love, he can open doors Augusta never suspected were there. Even I wasn’t expecting what was to come! Because don’t believe Ghost is a mere Brönté-like book. Oh, no. It’s better than this! Ghost stands at the threshold of everything. A past, a future. Different worlds. Ghost is a crack on the wall of time, engulfing you in a magnificent love story, life story, death story. The book will have you think about your own life for a long time after you’ve left Augusta.
If you think you know all about coming-of-age novels, you are wrong. Augusta walks a path which takes this ritual towards adulthood to another level. Can you really live when surrounded by so many ghosts?
The writing robbed me of all adjectives to try and describe it. Pure and powerful, it gave me room to discover, be surprised, feel, imagine, and believe. Twists had me going ‘what?!’? in the best way possible.
I wish I could say more, but should my lips (or in this case, my fingers) reveal the slightest hint of what you will find in this novel, the magic would fail to knock you off your feet as much as it did to me, and I’m a kind person, but I do want you to be so surprise you let out a word a well-raised girl from 1945 wouldn’t use! Delightfully macabre, Ghost is intriguing and absolutely fascinating in its very own way.
Langlands House is haunted in more ways than you think. Will you dare open its doors? I promise you an other-worldly twisty plot as taut as a fishing line, a walk on waters ready to overwhelm you, and most of all, a brilliant and impressive tragic tale of ghosts.
Helen was born in London in 1964. She showed an early leaning towards the arts, having been told off for writing stories under the desk in maths lessons at school.
Helen went on to read Classics at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, and then worked in marketing for ten years to fund her love of travelling. Her two most memorable travelling days were the one spent exploring Damascus in Syria and the day she went to the Raj Mandir cinema in Jaipur to see the romantic blockbuster Beta.
In 2001, she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany. It was exploring the legends of this beautiful old town that inspired her to write her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which is set there.
Helen now lives in Scotland with her husband, her two children and her two cats.
Discover more about Helen by reading this interview on Fledgling Press’s website!