I’m delighted to share my review today for Anne Allen’s latest novel, courtesy of Rachel’s Random Resources.
Anne Allen’s latest novel in the Guernsey series ‘Her Previous Self’ is described as ‘a moving, atmospheric time-slip story’ and that’s certainly an apt description.
Lucy Stewart has returned to Guernsey after losing her daughter to cot death. The tragedy also signalled the end of her marriage. Lucy and her husband weren’t able to comfort each other and separated. Gripped by depression, Lucy hopes being with family will help her to heal. Her parents, never ones to put others before themselves, have booked a last minute cruise, leaving a reluctant Lucy in charge of her elderly grandfather, Gregory Carre, who isn’t in the best of health.
Lucy is drawn to an ancestral portrait hanging on the wall of her bedroom in the grand but faded Georgian mansion, which has been handed down through the Carre family, and recognises the painting, and the woman in it, from when she was a child. She saw her walk through the wall. And it seems she’s not the only one to have seen the apparition.
Lucy stepped back, holding her breath, and although the tears slowed, the painting seemed to emit such waves of grief she felt as if she had been struck.
‘Who are you? What do you want?’ Lucy whispered, not sure why she was talking to a painting, but the compulsion was too strong. As if the woman had somehow got inside her mind.
Lucy discovers the couple in the painting are Mary and Thomas Carre who lived in the house two centuries earlier. Apparently Mary went missing in mysterious circumstances—there is no record of her death in the family tree—and although it’s thought she ran away from her brutish husband the riddle has never been solved. And he was a brute, as Lucy discovers through her experiences drawn from Mary’s life.
Lucy takes this opportunity to get to know the grandfather she remembers from childhood as severe and unapproachable. Time has mellowed him and he and Lucy get on extremely well. He is eager to learn Mary’s fate, helping Lucy with the available documentation as a close bond forms between them.
Lucy’s and Mary’s stories, although separated by centuries, have parallels that tie them together. Mary’s story is harrowing, interwoven through the narrative as Lucy deals with her own unresolved feelings, together with the unfolding revelations about Mary’s life. The depiction of a woman’s lot all those years ago is all too realistic, at the mercy of the men in her life, be it father or husband, with no recourse.
The island is described as evocatively as always with some added historical details about how Guernsey became a wealthy and successful port and how the elegant Georgian mansions were funded.
Another compelling addition to the series, Her Previous Self can also be read as a standalone. Previous characters are mentioned but without any cause for confusion.
Two women, living two hundred years apart but closer than sisters.
Mary, miserable in her marriage to Thomas Carre, a merchant and privateer and living in the newly-built family mansion in Georgian Guernsey.
Lucy, separated from her husband after a tragic loss and now acting as an unwilling sitter for her elderly grandfather, Gregory Carre, who has inherited the same mansion.
Lucy is haunted by Mary’s continued presence in the house and finds herself being pulled more and more back in time. How is it possible for her to live as Mary? To experience scenes from her tragic life? Lucy is forced to come to terms with Mary’s grief as well as her own.
The more enmeshed she becomes the more anxious Lucy is to discover the truth. Why is Mary still restless? What caused her mysterious disappearance two hundred years ago?
And can Lucy move on from her own loss to find happiness again?
Anne Allen lives in Devon but originates from Rugby. Finding early on in life that she loved the sea she spent most of her adult years moving from one coast to another. Her happiest time was spent in Guernsey where she lived for nearly 14 years and her books are all set on that beautiful island. Until recently Anne was a psychotherapist but has now retired to write full time. So far she has published Dangerous Waters, Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat, The Family Divided, Echoes of Time, The Betrayal, The Inheritance and Her Previous Self, forming the Guernsey Novels series. The books focus on love, mystery, drama and relationships. In her spare time she dabbles in art and very occasionally housework.
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