When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history.
Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape.
Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets.
As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?
Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is the captivating novel from the author of The Illustrated Child.
My thoughts: despite coming from one, there’s something a bit spooky about islands – especially the small ones. Part way between the UK and Holland, the island here – Dohhuhland – aka Dogger Bank (the remains of ancient Doggerland – Google it if you’re interested in ancient history – I found it really interesting) in the shipping forecast, is certainly very creepy in this story of generational trauma and family.
Inspired by the history of Orford Ness – a place I am definitely going to have to visit next time we go to my in-laws, the number of books it’s popped up in, the story Marianne slowly reveals to Tartelin is one of terrible sadness and loss.
Tartelin is no stranger to grief herself – she has recently lost her beloved mother, and she empathises deeply with the older woman, at the same time as finding her extremely difficult. She also begins a sweet romance with a young tourist on the island – Jacob, there to see the wildlife (Orford Ness is a nature reserve now) and he provides an outlet from the claustrophobia of Marianne’s partly closed up house.
Marianne has lost almost everyone in her life – and is haunted by her losses, but there is someone she hurt who might return, if Tartelin can convince her. In doing so Tartelin also learns to say goodbye to her beloved mother. Moving and quietly beautiful, this was a beguiling piece of historic/contemporary fiction with Gothic undertones and a gently redemptive conclusion.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.