Since childhood, Sandra Peters has been fascinated by the small, private island of Lieloh, home to the reclusive silent-film star Valerie Swanson. Having dreamed of going to art college, Sandra is now in her forties and working as a receptionist, but she still harbours artistic ambitions.
When she sees an advert for a two-week artists’ retreat on Lieloh, Sandra sets out on what might be a life-changing journey. She anticipates a friendly and supportive little community but does not get quite what she was hoping for.
The Retreat is a story about pursuing dreams and suffering artists, which unfolds with Moore’s trademark compelling unease.
ALISON MOORE’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards, winning the McKitterick
Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Recent publications include a series for children. Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short
Stories, Best British Horror and Best New
Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories.
Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives in a village on the Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire border with her husband and son and is an honorary lecturer in the School of English at the University of Nottingham. Website Twitter
My thoughts: this was an interesting read, I found the dual timeline confusing at first as I couldn’t work out which one happened when, but as the plots continued, I started to see what might be going on. I felt sorry for Sandra, the other “artists” at the retreat were a right bunch of meanies, annoyed because she was vegetarian, and behaved really childishly. They just wanted a holiday, she was there to paint, and be closer to the mysterious Valerie Swanson. It’s not a long story and it stops before it really gets interesting – which is disconcerting, things are hinted at, but no definitive answers given. What happened at the house on Little Lieloh?
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.