A well-crafted first novel reverberating with echoes of the Brontës, Sheridan LeFanu, and the ghost stories of Henry James and Edith Wharton.
Maisie Thomas, an intellectual and spirited ingénue, summers with her parents on Middle Haven, an island off the coast of Maine. In the summer of 1898, the family takes up residence as usual in Grange House, a hotel presided over by the mysterious Miss Grange, a distinguished older woman whose past hints at dark secrets. The morning after Maisie's arrival, a young courting couple are found drowned, a harbinger of tragedies to come. And come they do, thick and fast: fatal accidents, shocking disclosures, more drownings. Maisie begins to feel a kinship with the artistic, sensitive Miss Grange, and their bond deepens when they start to correspond. Miss Grange eventually bestows her journals on Maisie, promising that the history it reveals holds the key to Maisie's past, present, and future. In the meantime, two visitors to the island vie for Maisie's hand in marriage. Jonathan Lanman, a banker, offers security and safety; Bart Hunnowell, a writer, promises passion and adventure. Throughout, Blake deploys a small army of elements beloved of the 19th-century gothic romance: switched identities, ghosts of dead children, raging tempests, long-hidden diaries, repressed passions, and a young woman who, by novel's end, is an orphan both figuratively and literally. All this is rendered in a first-person voice that occasionally seems mannered and stilted, perhaps the inevitable consequence of trying to write a 19th-century novel when living in the 21st.
Still, despite the sometimes-ponderous prose, this well-constructed, absorbing, atmospheric tale will keep you reading. (Author tour)