I perused my TBR for something that would fill be seasonal wish for a title gothic or spooky in tone. “Greythorne” was the result of my search. I requested it from NetGalley quite a while ago, for just such an occasion.
It reminded me greatly of one of my favorite novels, “Jane Eyre“, in that it was set in roughly the same time period and featured a governess sent to a gothic mansion to tutor a little girl. Only this time the house was situated on an island which was isolated, windswept, and wild. The huge building’s only staff was a lone man called Jonas. He did all the maintenance, cooking, and ferrying of items to and from the island. So, after Nell comes to live at Greythorne there are only four people in the house altogether! Although the house is vast in size, the atmosphere is almost claustrophobic. Ominously, the people in the nearest village on the mainland have warned Nell Featherstone to abandon her plan of taking up a position there.
Greythorne is a foreboding stone manor complete with crenelated towers and of course… secret passages.
Sophie, the little girl, who is eight years old, seems wise beyond her years. She has led an almost solitary life and reads voraciously. Her social skills are abhorrent though, and she resents the fact that her father hired a governess which she feels she does not need. The little girl is plagued with nightmares, and seems increasingly listless and unwell.
Nell Featherstone, the governess, age eighteen, is alone in the world, without any family at all. She hopes that she will find a home in Greythorne. She is pleased by her accommodation there and looks forward to teaching her small charge.
The house begins to exert a hold over Nell. As much as she longs to escape the island and converse with other adults, she feels a connection to the place that is now her home. She frequents the beautiful two story library that is a treasure-trove of the books she covets.
The book’s narration is perfectly in keeping with the time period in which it is set. The descriptive passages are very well rendered. One of my favorite lines from the novel is this one in which Nell enters the library: “It was bathed in sunlight from the enormous windows; shafts of it slanted through the dusty air, creating sparkling, ethereal roads leading skyward.”
Five years previously, the lady of the house, Lucy Greythorne died mysteriously. Sophie’s father, Nathaniel Greythorne, is a scientist. He conducts ‘experiments‘ at the manor which are highly secretive.
Nell’s growing fondness for Sophie causes her to seek out the reasons for Lucy’s death, and, to seek out the forbidden laboratories in the cellar…
In summation? With traces of “Jane Eyre” and traces of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, this is both eerie and gothic. A perfect October read.Thanks to Momentum Books via NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this novella in consideration for a review.
L.M. Merrington was born in Melbourne, Australia. She has worked as a freelance journalist and academic, and holds a PhD in international relations, focusing on the China-India relationship. Her journalism and academic writing has appeared in publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin. Greythorne is her first novel.