The Legacy by Katherine Webb
review copy provided by Harper Collins
Description from Goodreads:
A fresh and exciting new voice in contemporary fiction, Katherine Webb debuts with a haunting novel about a secret family history. Already a sensation in the United Kingdom, Webb’s The Legacy is a treat for every fan of upmarket women’s fiction and literary suspense in the vein of bestselling authors Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, and Diane Setterfield. Taut, affecting, and surprising—a story that ranges from present-day England back to the American West in the early twentieth century—The Legacy embroils two sisters in an investigation into the strange, never solved disappearance of their cousin, a dark mystery that opened deep family wounds that never healed.
To be quite honest, this book had me in it's grip from the very first page -- and I'm not even exaggerating. After finishing the Prologue, I was completely hooked. I had to find out what was going on. The Prologue takes plce in 1905 and then the first chapter take place in modern times. Two sisters are dealing with the death of their grandmother, the handling of the estate and dealing with their own past at their grandmother's home. There are more than a few dark secrets in the past - some from their own past and some from their great grandmother's past that haunt this family.
Some things I loved about the book:
I really enjoyed the family history aspect to the story. The younger sister, Erica, becomes fascinated with the distant past as she tries to remember or solve the mystery of what happened to her own cousin one summer during her childhood. Being the youngest of the cousins, she doesn't remember (or won't let herself remember) the events of that day and no one who does remember will tell her. The going through old family trunks, letters, photos, etc. is just the perfect vehicle for finding out family secrets and I really enjoyed the slow reveal of the sad family story. It was also fun that the reader is priy to information that Erica is not. I thought it demonstrated just how much of our family stories can be guesswork. I work on our family geneaology and this is an important subject for me.
Part of the great grandmother, Caroline's, story takes place in Woodward, Ok in the very early 1900's. I am originally from Oklahoma and my husband's family is from Woodward so it was fun to read about turn of the century Woodward. The descriptions of the heat were so uncannily accurate, it was amazing.
I loved the way the grandmother's hatred of the Travellers family that lived on the end of the property was gradually explained. The sisters grew up knowing that their grandmother detested this family, but they were never really sure exactly why. Despite strict instruction not to, they became fast friends with Dinny, the son of the family. The various and changing relationships between the two families members are important to the story and is wonderful to read. And again, we see the damage that secrets and lack of explanation can cause in a child's perception of people and cause such unhappiness.She did not get used to the heat, which increased with each passing day. By noon the sun was a flat, white disc that seemed to press like a giant hand on her head whenever she stepped outside, pushing her down, making her heavy and half-blind. When the wind blew it seemed as hot as the blast from an oven. p. 151
Note: I did figure out what happened to the cousin before the big reveal in the book, but it absolutely did not deter from my enjoyment of the story as a whole.
I don't want to give away any big plot points because this book should definitely be read and enjoyed on its own. The mysteries should be savored and relished for the lush gothic story that it is. I have been recommending this book to all my friends.