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?
I really enjoyed Fran Cooper’s debut novel These Dividing Walls and I was thrilled to receive a copy of her second novel, The Two Houses, to review, the premise itself is a very interesting one.
Jay, the main protagonist, is portrayed as a fragile individual recovering from a breakdown and seeks solace in this isolated place and reportedly “haunted” house.
There are some places where the idea of ghosts and hauntings become quite plausible, and Cooper captures that brilliantly in this novel, set up in the isolated hills and dales around the fictional village of Hestle. Down in the village the residents mumble to themselves and utter mysterious warnings about the house up on the hill, the ghosts more alive to them than anyone else.
The landscape is a huge part of the narrative and a character itself – especially the house or “two houses” which it becomes. The plot moves slowly and carefully while you soak up the atmosphere and tension builds. There is a lot of description, so you can really immerse yourself into the surroundings and internal monologues, so you can get inside the characters minds.
Coopers also has a talent for well-rounded secondary characters and I particularly connected with Dev, a young man who works at the local library and who is ostracised because of the colour of his skin.
The secret at the heart of the novel, mentioned on the front cover, finally reaches it’s climax near the end and has a solution that is both interesting and satisfying.
A spooky, atmospheric and modern take on the traditional Gothic novel – if you love the Brontës – you’ll love this!
About the Author
Fran Cooper grew up in London before reading English at Cambridge and Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She spent three years in Paris writing a PhD about travelling eighteenth-century artists, and currently works in the curatorial department of a London museum. Her first novel These Dividing Walls (Hodder) was shortlisted for the Hayes & Jarvis Fiction, with a Sense of Place Award (2018 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards).
Purchase your own copy of The Two Houses here.
Lastly, an even more HUGE thanks for reading!