What I Thought:
What a great premise: an old house in a bleak and windswept dale, with the middle taken out because it’s haunted! On the back of the fantastic These Dividing Walls comes another blinder from new author Fran Cooper.
Once again this is a character-driven book rather than plot-driven, and by character, I include the weather, the dales, Yorkshire itself. Londoners Jay and Simon decide to buy an old and rundown house in the middle of nowhere to get away from the rat-race. While at once enamoured with the rugged beauty and solitude of their new home, what they hadn’t banked on was the hostility of the locals, all of whom seem to have secrets of their own.
The small cast of characters all add something to the tale and the narrative is so immersive and emotive that I found it easy to empathise with all of them in some way, even the not-so-savoury characters. Despite living in Yorkshire myself (although not a tiny village in the back end of nowhere like this one) I had never really appreciated how someone who has grown up in a place like this and hasn’t been able to get out could view incomers from down south who chose to live there with suspicion and contempt.
Although there are some apparently spooky goings-on, it’s more of an atmospheric tale than a ghost story. I found the prose so impressive and beautiful at times that I wanted to read slowly to savour each sentence.
The perfect book to curl up with on an autumn/winter evening, by fire and candlelight. The Two Houses has turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year. Highly recommended!