During the hot summer of 1959, Margot and her three sisters are dumped at Applecote Manor by their feckless mother - and into the care of their aunt and uncle, whose own young daughter disappeared five years previously. It is unsettling for them, not least because their cousin Audrey still 'haunts' the house; her bedroom is as she left it, her parents have obviously never got over the shock, and the villagers regard the family with deep suspicion.
In the present day, Jessie and Will are hoping for a new start in the now ramshackle Applecote Manor, along with their young daughter Romy, and Will's rebellious teenage daughter Bella.
I loved everything about this book. It ticked every box for me: family secrets, an old mystery and a spooky house. I found the 1959 timeline authentic and totally absorbing. By contrast, it was the present day part that felt more dreamlike - but in a good way! This concentrated on the increasing tensions between Jessie and Will, and the never-that-great-to-begin-with relationship between Jessie and her step-daughter, whom she can never quite bring herself to trust. When Bella becomes obsessed with the history of the house, and the teenage girl who disappeared sixty years previously, Jessie feels own her grip on reality begin to unravel. Will the sinister atmosphere of the house destroy them? And will the tragic events of sixty years ago start to repeat themselves?
The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde* is part coming-of-age, part gothic mystery/romance, and part psychological suspense. It's brilliantly written, with memorable characters, and is very cleverly plotted. I loved the relationships between the four sisters, the sibling rivalry over the village boys, and the way they ultimately looked out for each other. For fans of Kate Morton, Daphne du Maurier, and perhaps Shirley Jackson too. One of my favourite reads this year.
Thank you to Eve Chase, Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
*Published as The Wilding Sisters in the USA.