The Girl at the Window is what I call a wow book. It’s simply stunning from the very beginning to the very end, all 440 pages of it. Not a short book, by any means, but in my opinion not one word is surplus to requirements.
The story is very much set around Ponden Hall on the Yorkshire moors and it most definitely is a character in its own right. When Trudy returns to her childhood home after losing her husband, Abe, it feels like the right thing to do. It’s so much more than just a house. She takes her eight-year-old son, Will, with her and it’s the first time he’s met his grandmother due to an estrangement between her and Trudy.
Ponden Hall is where Emily Brontė is thought to have got her inspiration for Wuthering Heights and where she spent some time before her untimely death. Already it’s a magical place. Add in Rowan Coleman’s storytelling skills and it’s even more exquisite.
There’s so much going on in this book and yet it never felt overcrowded. There’s the obvious grief that Trudy and Will are suffering. There’s the difficult mother/daughter relationship where they have to learn to live together again after so many years. Then there’s Trudy’s discovery in the house of items that could change history, along with the Brontė connection and the story of another Ponden Hall resident, Agnes. It’s all wonderfully atmospheric and full of those lovely little details that I love. There’s much going through records, searching through boxes, delving into archives, exploring dusty stacks for something long hidden. It captivated me and I just didn’t want to leave this fascinating story alone for a minute.
Added to this is the ghostly element at the hall. Over the years, ghosts have made their home at the hall too. I’m not a believer in ghosts and yet I totally believed in them in this story. Coleman hits exactly the right tone of plausibility.
The writing is sublime, the plotline is inspired and imaginative, I felt empathy with the characters and of course, there’s the setting. The beautiful and bleak Yorkshire moors of Wuthering Heights come back to life in The Girl at the Window. I thought it was a completely gorgeous read and one that will probably find its way onto my books of the year list.
Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes, 5/4
The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman
Ebury Press 9781785032462 pbk Aug 2019