I’m sharing two historical fiction reviews today on my book blog for two excellent books on blog tours arranged by the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. The first book being reviewed is A Woman Made of Snow, the second book I’ve read by Elisabeth Gifford (her book The Lost Lights of St Kilda was a 5 star read last year – see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/12/01/the-lost-lights-of-st-kilda-by-elisabeth-gifford/) Thank you to Corvus Books for a copy to read and review, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
A gorgeous, haunting, and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wilds of Scotland, and one woman’s hunt for the truth.
Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.
But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.
As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?
Although I have described this book as a historical fiction novel, this book covers so many topics, including murder, deceit, secrets, racism, snobbery and mother-in-law issues.
At the very start of the book we are made aware that a body is hidden but is ready to be discovered at Kelly Castle in 1949. This is around the same time as Caro Gillan moves in with Alasdair, the son of the owner of the castle, and their new baby. But how will she cope living with her new mother-in-law Martha?
Alongside the events of 1949, we have an earlier time line featuring the ancestors of Alasdair including Oliver, his grandfather. We learn about how Oliver’s family befriended orphaned girls Louisa and Charlotte and how his mother was keen for him to marry a wealthy woman, rather than to fall in love. So who did Oliver marry and why was her name deleted from the family records?
The historical events in Oliver’s life were fascinating to read, an area of history I knew nothing about. I loved reading Elisabeth’s notes about her research at the end of the book
Both time lines are full of action and secrets, and I couldn’t put the book down, desperate to know what happened to Oliver and who had been buried in the grounds. I did have a couple of ideas, but was proved to be wrong.
A beautifully written and emotional read by Elisabeth Gifford that has been added to my favourite books of the year list. Happy to recommend this book.
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.