After an acclaimed career in ceramics, Jay herself has cracked. Recovering from a breakdown, she and her husband Simon move to the desolate edges of the north of England, where they find and fall in love with the Two Houses: a crumbling property whose central rooms were supposedly so haunted that a previous owner had them cut out from the building entirely.
But on uprooting their city life and moving to the sheltered grey village of Hestle, Jay and Simon discover it’s not only the Two Houses that seems to be haunted by an obscure past. It becomes increasingly clear that the villagers don’t want them there at all – and when building work to make the two houses whole again starts, a discovery is made that will unearth decades-old secrets . . .
But who in this village has been hiding them?
Simon an architect and Jay an artist in ceramics both live and work in London. Jay has suffered a breakdown and has become more and more distant from Simon, her work and her friends. One day he comes up with the idea of a change of scene. A bolt hole that they could get away to at weekends. Somewhat reluctantly Jay agrees. After a search they stumble across two houses in a remote village. Two houses which originally were once one. As an architect Simon sees some potential with the idea of turning it back into one large house. Jay is very much drawn to the property but for different reasons. When Simon sees Jay is interested, something that she isn’t experiencing much of at the moment, they agree to purchase the property and to start work on it immediately.
The village is remote and very much down on its luck. Lack of work has lead to a number of the community leaving. Newcomers like Simon and Jay and the local Librarian are not made to feel particularly welcome. Those villagers that have stayed all know each other, their secrets and their pasts. The Two Houses have a past of their own too and as building works starts its all about to be unearthed.
Jay gets more and more involved in finding out what has happened there and to the village as a whole. This only adds to the distance already apparent between her and Simon and the idea of buying a house to bring them peace and togetherness looks like its more likely to tear them apart.
I really enjoyed this book. It took me a little while to get into it, as it is a slower moving book than others I’ve been reading lately. It just took me time to get used to the pace, but once I did I found it an absorbing read.
The atmosphere of the house is described very subtly but with great affect. The odd noise here and there, footsteps and creaks, items possibly moved about. This coupled with its distance from town and deliveries unwilling to come out that far worked really well.
The imagery of the village and its surroundings were superb, and it was this that made the book for me. It made it so easy to transport yourself into the book. The characters were wonderfully written too, particularly those from the local community. This was a book which was as much about the social and economic situation of a small isolated village in northern England and it’s community, as it was about the mystery around The two Houses.
A wonderful blend of imagery, plot and character.
The Two Houses is published by Hodder and is out now.