Lesley Pearse’s 25th novel, The Woman in the Wood, was published by Michael Joseph/Penguin UK on 29 June and is available in ebook and hardback. I’m delighted to be taking part in the launch celebrations with the ’25 in 25′ facts about Lesley’s books. I also have my review at the end of the post.
Today Lesley is sharing fact 22 about her 22nd book, Survivor, first published in 2014.
The final part of the Belle Trilogy is about Mariette, wayward daughter of Belle and Etienne, who gets sent back to England from New Zealand just as WW2 begins. I haunted the Imperial War Museum to get the war time background right.
It is 1938 and Mariette Carrera is a defiant, strong-willed and selfish seventeen-year-old. And sooner or later, if she stays in the small, gossipy town of Russell, New Zealand, she’ll get herself into some serious trouble. Her doting parents, Belle and Etienne, fear for her reputation. So, with the world on the brink of war, Mari leaves home on the SS Rimutaka, bound for her aunt and uncle’s house in London.
Armed with the freedom she’s longed for since childhood, Mari quickly falls for Morgan, the handsome cockney steward on board ship. But once she reaches London, there are other temptations.
Mari loves her new life – caught up in a whirl of dances and parties in the glittering West End, relishing her freedom as she earns her own money as a typist. Finally, she feels she is mistress of her own future.
Until it is all snatched away by the war.
As London endures the Blitz, Mari’s new life is cruelly blown apart. Forced from her loving new home, she ends up alone in the East End, and it’s worlds away from the London she knows. But there, even in the face of so much despair, she finds the chance to make a difference. Amidst the destruction, Mari learns that the only way to survive this war is to fight, with all the strength, selflessness and compassion within her…and only then will she find true happiness.
Because Mari is a survivor…
About The Woman in the Wood
Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .
One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.
It’s not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales – a large house deep in the New Forest countryside – to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before – freedom.
The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn’t come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.
When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson’s disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Deville.
The Woman in the Wood is Lesley Pearse’ 25th book and what a great achievement. It is also the fifth book of hers that I’ve read; and Lesley is one of the few authors whose books I will always buy regardless. Her stories are family saga/drama based but with an added suspense/crime element and she doesn’t shy away from difficult or disturbing subjects, The Woman in the Wood being no exception. The storyline here is not a particularly pleasant one but despite it being set in the 1960’s it is still just as, if not more so, relevant today.
Twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham are 15 years old when the story begins and they are suddenly shipped off without any explanation to their grandmother’s house near the New Forest after their father has their mother admitted to an asylum. They are not told anything about their mother, or why she has gone and although they were not close to their mother, there is still a sense of loss and bewilderment that their father and grandmother, both distant and remote people, are ill equipped to deal with. The family take the stiff upper lip attitude to another level and certainly don’t believe in showing emotion or even love. The only bright light in the twin’s lives is Janice, their grandmother’s housekeeper. Without her, they would have floundered even more.
The first half of the book has a much slower pace when various characters are introduced and the reader can form an opinion about them. As mentioned, the kindly Janice together with their tutor Mr Dove are both an important anchor in the lives of the twins, providing care and compassion which is sadly lacking from others. Both Duncan and Maisy were children that you could take an instant liking to. They were polite and interested in people however their trusting manner was to be their downfall.
The second half is where the story really moves up a notch and becomes much more suspenseful. ‘The Woman in the Wood’ refers to Grace Deville, a middle aged reclusive spinster and regarded by locals as the ‘madwoman from the asylum’; she lives in a shack in the forest with her dog Toby, shuns human company and is quite hostile to strangers. Grace’s backstory is not a happy one but are the villagers right to be wary and distrustful of her?
Lesley Pearse has again created a dramatic and suspenseful read with well-drawn and believable characters that you will either love or hate. The setting of the New Forest and the mention of surrounding Hampshire locations add a sense of place and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise Grace’s secluded forest shack. I have to admit that I spent much of the first part of the book being suspicious of certain characters whilst waiting for something to happen but then when it did, wow, it felt like a punch in the gut. In comparison to some of the author’s previous books that I’ve read, this storyline has a much darker and sinister theme and in my opinion this is very much an adult read.
The Women in the Wood is an excellent addition to the author’s works and a worthy way to celebrate the 25th book. Each of her books are very different and it’s an amazing feat to keep coming up with fresh ideas that provide not only a social commentary of the times but are also a stonking good read. I really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it for fans of this genre.
My thanks to the publisher for the Netgalley ARC and to edpr for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.
About the author:
Lesley Pearse is a global No.1 bestseller with fans across the world and sales of over 10 million copies of her books to date. A true storyteller and master of the gripping storyline, Lesley introduces us to characters that are impossible not to care about or forget. There is no formula to her books or easily defined genre and, whether historical drama like the No.1 bestseller, Belle or the emotionally powerful Trust Me based on the true-life scandal of British child migrants sent to Australia in the post-war period, she engages the reader completely. The Woman in the Wood is Lesley’s 25th novel.