This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
20.08.20 / Mystery / Orion Books / Hardback / 336pp / 978-1409192176
About The Quickening
An infamous seance. A house burdened by grief. A secret that can no longer stay buried.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex to photograph the contents of the house for auction. Desperate for money after falling on hard times, she accepts the commission.
On arrival, she learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, the consequences of which still haunt the family. Before the Clewer’s leave England for good, the lady of the house has asked those who attended the original séance to recreate the evening. Louisa soon becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house, unravelling the longheld secrets of what happened that night thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with Clewer Hall’s.
An exquisitely crafted mystery that invites the reader into the crumbling Clewer Hall to help unlock its secrets alongside the unforgettable Louisa Drew.
Q&A w/ Sarah Rhiannon Ward
Thank you Sarah for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest novel, The Quickening. Could you give us your own personal overview of what readers should expect within the book?
The Quickening is a gothic thriller set in 1925 at Clewer Hall where a famous seance is being recreated before the house is sold. My protagonist, Louisa Drew, is a professional photographer commissioned to photograph the contents of the Hall before its sale who hears about a child who haunts the gardens.
Where did the initial inspiration for the narrative in The Quickening come from?
I love both gothic novels and ghost stories and I’d always wanted to write a historical thriller. Sometimes the time is right to write a particular book. The inspiration was all the novels I’d ever read with a haunted house!
Could you give us a few more insights into what Louisa Drew faces during her time at Clewer Hall?
Without giving to much away, she feels the house doesn’t want her there. She’s eight months pregnant and begins to feel that a series of odd happenings, pictures falling from the wall, a bite by an unseen child, is actually being directed towards her unborn child.
The Quickening has been compared to The Silent Companions which makes me all the more excited because I love Gothic thrillers. What was the most challenging aspect of writing a novel about convening with the afterlife in an era where death was so commonplace?
I read lots of books about the history of spiritualism. By the 1920s, many frauds had been exposed and I find this element particularly interesting. The exploitation of people’s grief following the Great War. Where there’s a charlatan, there’s a crime…
What sort of themes do you explore in The Quickening and did they affect you during the writing process?
I explore themes that are present in all my novels – loss, grief, new beginnings. Without wishing to overshare these are themes close to my heart and I find them easy to write about.
Is there a part of The Quickening that you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
I loved writing about the seances held in Clewer Hall. Here’s a quote from medium Ada after she has done her worst: ‘As the air cleared, Ada Watkins stifled the urge to cough. She slipped a peppermint into her mouth, its sticky sweetness soothing her throat, raw from speaking in many voices.’
What is it like being both an author and a book reviewer/blogger?
I began as a reviewer before blogs even existed and I think all that reading of crime novels inspired me to give it a go. I wish I had more time to blog these days but I spend a long time on my writing. I do have a few reviews lined up though – there are some great crime novels out there at the moment.
How long did it take you to write The Quickening compared to your previous novels?
It took around a year which was the same as my previous novels. I did have to do much more research but I did that alongside the writing.
Did you always have your eye set on being a writer/author and what sort of books did you grow up reading?
I never thought I’d become a writer. I was, however, a huge reader – as a child I read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, Nancy Drew then Agatha Christie when I was about twelve and that was the start of my love affair with crime novels.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
I’m a big knitter. I knitted two jumpers during lockdown and a pair of socks! (picture attached of one of my jumpers!)
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
I’ve just read The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. It’s absolutely brilliant about an epidemic which sweeps an American university town.
About Sarah Rhiannon Ward
Rhiannon Ward is the pseudonym for Sarah Ward, the bestselling and critically acclaimed crime author. Sarah has a masters degree in Religious History and has long been fascinated by the long tradition of spiritualism in England and is a member of the Institute of Psychical Research. Sarah is also a crime reviewer and book blogger at Crime Pieces.