“You have to force yourself to do the things you’re most scared of. You have to face your darkest fears, don’t you? … Only then you can you survive yourself.”
The Wildling Sisters is a dual-timeline book set in 1959 and present day. This is former journalist Eve Chase’s second book after Black Rabbit Hall and is a historical fiction novel with elements of Gothic horror. The scene opens with a body being dragged and events quickly grows from there.
The novel takes place at the Applecote manor in the Cotswolds and is centralized around four sisters spending one last summer with their aunt and uncle before diving into womanhood, and what occurs. Applecote has secrets… Five years prior the sisters’ cousin Audrey disappeared, and their aunt and uncle were never the same since. Margot, being the third of the four sisters is fifteen and at an awkward place: she is not as pretty or mature as her two older sisters, but is not the child she once was. Being the sister closest to Audrey before the girl disappears, she is most curious about this missing girl: trying to put herself in the girl’s place and asking all the questions everyone else around her seems to avoid.
As the Summer goes on and events begin to occur the four sisters who were formerly close begin to distance one another until they are strangers.
Fast-forward to the present: Jessie is newly married to Will, a handsome widower with a brooding teen daughter. Jessie moves her family out to the country from London in a desperate attempt to get away from the overwhelming presence that is Will’s former wife. Her teenage step-daughter has been struggling to adjust to the loss of her mother, and Jessie hopes that this move will be the fresh start that the new family needs.
But the past refuses to stay buried so that as the family begins to settle into their new home, the ghosts and memories of things back come to haunt them.
Dual-timelines can be hard to pull off, but I thought that this book was superbly written. It was a refreshing departure from the norm in that because the book was set in 1959 the characters from the past were still alive in the present. It was the perfect before and after snapshot and provided a closure that can be missing in other books that utilize a dual narrative.
And the romance. There was love in all its complexities: the love of sisterhood, of motherhood, and the newly realized love of a young woman. The book was not steamy yet it was not prude, Chase writes with finesse. The story made me recall the relationships that made up my own teenage years: the emotions that can consume you at that age.
The character development was surprising and dynamic. Chase does a good job drawing out the nuances and bonds between sisters, for better or for worse. I saw myself a lot in Jessie, her feelings regarding Will’s last wife struck a chord in me. She’s unsure of herself and her place, and those insecurities make her more human and likable to me. Jessie is the type of woman that I could see myself befriending in real life.
Particularly compelling was the mystery and richness of Applecote: the Gothic motifs of the story (one of my favorite genres) drew me into the book and kept me intrigued. I am reading Jane Eyre right now and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the two.
The Wildling Sisters is the perfect novel for an upper YA reader: girls who are starting to navigate the waters of womanhood would especially benefit from the novel, or fans of Gothic fiction and thrillers. In turns chilling and inspiring, The Wildling Sisters is one to keep an eye on.
*Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own.