I am struggling to describe The Beloved Girls in just a few words. It is an epic of a story – all consuming, bewitching, atmospheric, menacing. I could go on and on; but essentially The Beloved Girls is a beautifully haunting story. It has an uneasy sense of darkness running throughout it which makes it such a gripping and thought provoking read.
This past week this latest novel from bestselling author Harriet Evans has completely consumed me. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it, and since finishing it I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it. Especially as it is full of twists and turns, brilliantly exploring many themes, including the sense of being an outsider, marriage, class, family dynamics and failure.
Released today, I urge you to read The Beloved Girls, especially if you love a captivating story that will have you guessing throughout.
Part one of the novel is set in 2018 in which we are introduced to Catherine, a successful barrister who has an adoring husband and two teenage children. Yet Catherine has always been secretive and veiled about her upbringing, even to her family. Then when she sees someone from her past, she realises she has no other option than to run away.
Why is Catherine so haunted by the past?
The answer lies in the relationship between two families that ‘go back an awfully long way‘. Janey Lestrange and Kitty Hunter become friends when they are 12 years-old after Janey and her father visit Vanes, Kitty’s ancestral home. Then years later, grieving from the tragic, sudden death of her father, 18 year-old Janey is invited back to Vanes to spend the summer. Always aware of being the outsider, Janey becomes bewitched by the strange, beautiful Hunter family, wishing she was one of them. She especially wants to resume her friendship with the beautiful Kitty, ‘Her house, her gilded life, her air of confidence, as if everything was easy.’
Yet everything is not as it seems in the mysterious West County manor house where the Hunters are getting ready to perform their ancient family ritual. In an old, derelict chapel at Vanes live thousands of bees. The bees have been there for centuries. The family are almost fanatical about this ancient ceremony in which they form a procession to the chapel, open the combs and taste the honey which is rumoured to have hypnotic qualities. They then take the bees honey, ‘half for them and half for us.’ During the ceremony, the family sing a song which includes poignant lyrics and is symbolic of the tragedy to come:
Two, two, the beloved girls,
Clothed all in green, O,
One is one and all alone, and evermore shall be soTraditional Collecting Song
The Beloved Girls is a deeply powerful novel as it explores abuse, coercion and the ‘sort of tidying away of women so they won’t cause trouble.’ Spanning the interconnecting families through generations, it has an array of flawed characters that brought out in me empathy, love, fear and disgust. I especially loved the character of Simon. I can’t tell you why as I would have to reveal spoilers, but for me he is a tragic hero. I also felt so much for many of the women portrayed in the novel, especially Sylvia.
Just as I loved Harriet Evans last novel, The Garden of Lost and Found, I also loved this novel. There is no doubt about it, Harriet Evans is a brilliant story-teller. I was completely captivated.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of The Beloved Girls. To follow the blog tour, please see below.
As I say, The Beloved Girls is released today. So go and grab your copy now!