When Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn’t realise is that she’s not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette… Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.
I think the first thing I want to say about Fell is that it is beautifully written. A week after finishing the book, I am still haunted by some of the language and the images it created. It is an otherworldly book and the words perfectly match the subject matter. I felt carried along by them from the first page through to the last.
The story was a bit harder for me to fall into if I’m honest, though by a third of the way through I was there and living it along with the characters. The beginning, though, just jumped too much for me. The past, the present, and the who was telling the story. This was Jack and Netty, or the spirits of Jack and Netty and they spoke as a we. Sometimes the time would change mid-chapter and it took me a while to get used to this and understand what was happening.
I have to say too that, by the end, I’m still not quite sure what had happened. I don’t want to give anything away because of spoilers but , whilst I got where everyone ended up, I still don’t quite know how they got there and how much Jack and Netty had to do with it and how much their telling the story was just a good way to, well, tell the story.
I feel like there are things I should have picked up on, especially around the lodger Tim, that I just didn’t – which was a bit frustrating – and I am not quite sure why Annette was where she was in her life. Yes, her mother had been ill when she was a child but were the repercussions such that she was so lost?
I think in part, this is down to the fact it’s Jack and Netty telling the story. You get to know them, really well, with all there good and bad points. You see all their mistakes and shake your head as they continue to make more. But Netty is ill. I get it. But because of that you only really see Tim and Annette on the surface.
Jenn Ashworth tries to resolve this by having Jack and Netty able to see Tim and Annette’s thoughts but I never felt like I really got to know them. And I wanted to because I cared about what was happening. The fact that I didn’t has left me in two minds about the book.
I loved the writing, as I said, and the concept. I loved Netty and Jack. But Tim and Annette didn’t work for me as characters because I couldn’t get to know them and so, as a result, I feel like I’ve missed out on something in the story. So, where does this leave me? Liking, but not loving the book I think. If I still did star ratings I’d go for 3.75, almost but not quite a 4.
Have you read this? What did you think – or am I alone in being conflicted?
Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.