The Wildling Sisters, Eve Chase
Release Date: July 25
Note: This novel appears under the title “The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde” outside of the US
Applecote Manor is a house stuck in the past. In the mid 1950’s, a young girl named Audrey Wilde simply disappeared from the English estate without a trace. Five years later, the four Wilde sisters return to their aunt and uncle’s home for a final, carefree adolescent summer. Middle sister Margot is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her favorite cousin- and close friend- Audrey. But her quest for the truth is complicated by typical growing pains and her struggle to find her own identity.
In the present day, the neglected Applecote Manor is a little worse for wear. Londoner Jessie is trying to navigate life with her busy and often absent husband Will, her active toddler, and her fraught relationship with her withdrawn and moody teen stepdaughter Bella- who is still grieving the loss of her mother. In spite of the work needing to be done, Jessie cannot help but be drawn to the house. She’s sure its the perfect place for a fresh start for her fragile family. Perhaps here too, she can put to rest her insecurities over her inability to measure up to Mandy, Will’s glamorous first wife. But the past is not so easy to shake at Applecote after all.
Set in the Cotswolds, The Wildling Sisters is imbued with a strong sense of place. It was easy to picture Applecote manor- both in its prime in the 1950’s, as well as in it’s beautiful decay in the present. Chase’s incredibly evocative prose elevates this dual-timeline mystery. I fell in love with her highly-descriptive writing. There were so many sentences that stopped me in my tracks.
The novel opens with a tantalizing glimpse of a dramatic future event that will have you immediately hooked. This is not a fast-paced story though, but a slow-burn with subtly building suspense. I personally love novels with this kind of gothic feel. I had a delightful feeling of unease throughout my reading, a feeling which increased as I drew closer to the novel’s final reveals.
As is almost always the case, I preferred the historical timeline to the present-day one. I got a little irritated at times with Jessie, Bella, and Will’s drama and their inability to communicate. I did appreciate how human all of Chase’s characters are however. These are not idealized cardboard cut outs, but people you can easily imagine crossing paths with. Although I’m an only child, I felt that Chase perfectly captures the complicated bond that exists between sisters. The same can be said for the relationship between step-mother and step-daughter.
On a superficial personal note, it was interesting to read a book featuring a female protagonist who shares my name. I honestly can’t remember another book that I’ve read in which that is the case (although i can think of a few male characters named Jesse).
I figured out part of the mystery fairly early on, but that did not lessen my enjoyment of this novel by any means. There were even a few twists left at the end to keep this from becoming a predictable read.
Beyond the central mystery of Audrey’s fate, The Wildling Sisters is a novel about growing up, family ties, sisterhood, loss, and learning to live with the past.
I highly recommend this well-written, atmospheric novel- especially for fans of Kate Morton. I definitely want to check out Eve Chase’s debut, Black Rabbit Hall, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
**A huge thank you to Net Galley and publisher Michael Joseph for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review**