A beautiful, brooding novel of siblings growing up half-wild in a grand Welsh manor house.
Jonathan and his younger sister, Theo, are inseparable, as often happens with lonely, neglected children. They live in the family’s ancestral home, Evendon, and it is a considerable ancestry: great-grandpa was a renowned archaeological plunderer, glamorous grandmother Eve moved to the States and became a senator before founding a hotel empire. The children count as their caregivers the cook, cleaner and nanny, as their mother, Alicia, is too drunk to talk to them. They wouldn’t be the first wealthy children to be raised by staff, and they make do by living a kind of free, languorous life filled with Theo’s extravagant fantasies and the mysteries of the garden. When Alicia attempts suicide and is sent away, Eve comes home and brings stability to the children. Jonathan comes to idolize Eve, while Theo shrinks away, her odd behavior off-putting to the cultured matriarch. As Jonathan and Theo become teens (over the years Alicia sits near catatonic in the conservatory, Eve is in the office running her empire), they become more dissimilar—ethereal Theo seems to live in a fairy world, whereas Jonathan is doing everything he can to become impressive. Theo and Jonathan live a life typical to their class: a privileged education, debauched parties, easy access to everything bright and beautiful. Jonathan falls in love with Maria, but she stays away, wary of his increasingly callous ambition. While Jonathan begins an architectural firm, Theo founders, dropping out of one college course after another, failing at all of the Eve-arranged internships, becoming increasingly obsessed with their long-lost father. Jonathan assumes Theo is doing too many drugs, but soon the mysteries of Evendon—and the fate of many inconvenient people in Eve’s life—bring tragedy to this haunted family.
Darkly lush, filled with an irresistibly sad glamour, this is a memorable debut.