A LOST CHILD.
A LONG-KEPT SECRET.
THE HOUSE THAT HOLDS THE KEY
Spring 1937: Teresa is evacuated to London in the wake of the Guernica bombing. She thinks she’s found safety in the soothing arms of Mary Davidson and the lofty halls of Rochester Place, but trouble pursues her wherever she goes.
Autumn 2020: Corrine, an emergency dispatcher, receives a call from a distressed woman named Mary. But when the ambulance arrives at the address, Mary is nowhere to be found. Intrigued, Corinne investigates and, in doing so, disturbs secrets that have long-dwelt in Rochester Place’s crumbling walls. Secrets that, once revealed, will change her life for ever . . .
Who is Mary Davidson? And what happened at Rochester Place all those years ago?
The story begins in 1937 when we meet 10 year old Theresa who is in the process of being evacuated to London due to the Guernica bombing leaving behind her only family her older sister. Theresa meets Mary Davidson during her journey and moves with Mary to Rochester Place, Mary’s home. Fast forward to 2020 and emergency services operator Corrine is just finishing her shift when she receives a call from a woman called Mary requesting help at Rochester Place. Although Corrine dispatches an ambulance to the address she is informed that Rochester Place does not exist. However, the phone call haunts Corrine. Who is the woman that called Corrine and what happened at Rochester Place all those years ago. Corrine takes it upon herself to uncover the truth and unearths a number of secrets along the way.
I found this to be a very interesting read. I know very little about the Guernica bombing during the Spanish Civil war so after reading the first few chapters from Theresa’s perspective I did a little online research to learn a bit more and what Theresa may have been faced with at the time. From my perspective Theresa is a very brave young girl. She leaves her country for another where she is unfamiliar with the language and customs. Whilst reading I would sometimes forget that Theresa was only 10 years old because at times she seemed very grown up for her age.
The story is told from multiple narratives but also features a dual timeline. In the present Corrine is trying to come to terms with the mysterious phone call and trying to find out what happened to Rochester Place and its occupants. In the past Theresa is coming to terms with being separated from her sister, living in a new place and hoping that one day she can return home. Although Theresa is very young she is probably one of the characters with the most life experience. Essentially she is a young child who in a short period of time experiences not one war but two wars. She is evacuated from Spain during the Spanish Civil War, finds a home in Rochester Place and then the next event is the Second World War. From Mary’s narrative we learn more about her background, marriage to Ronald, how she came into contact with Theresa and became her guardian.
What I liked about the story was that it was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. With each chapter a new perspective was given like a little piece of the puzzle and by the end of the book I had all of the pieces forming the bigger picture. Looking back at the story now I still don’t think I would have been able to piece the story together or predict how it would end or even how the characters were connected.
It’s clear from the way the book is written and the detail contained in the story that the author has done a lot of research into the events that took place in 1937 to the Second World War. The author has bought to the attention of readers the experiences faced by the Basque children when they were evacuated.
A story of intrigue and mystery set in a wartime setting.
Iris Costello is the pseudonym of Nuala Ellwood, who was born in 1979. She has a BA Hons degree in Sociology from Durham University and a Master’s in Creative Writing from York St John University where she is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing. The author of six highly acclaimed novels, Nuala has a teenage son, Luke, and is based in York and South London.