The Daughters of Foxcote Manor

Written by Eve Chase
Review by Clarissa Harwood

A baby abandoned on a tree stump in a remote forest lies at the centre of this enthralling dual-timeline novel. There’s also a murder, an affair, an unhappy adolescent girl, and a fiercely protective nanny.

In 1971, Big Rita is wonderful with children but uncomfortable in her own skin and shy with her peers. She is also uncomfortable with the task her absent employer has given her, to keep notes on his wife’s physical and mental state. Her love for her employers’ children keeps her in an increasingly ominous situation.

Thirteen-year-old Hera is desperate for her mother’s attention and is traumatized by her baby sister’s death a year earlier. And Jeannie, Hera’s mother, seems unable to take care of her children because she is so worn down by her overbearing husband.

In the modern timeline, Sylvie is smarting from a painful separation and from her eighteen-year-old daughter Annie’s choices, which don’t align with the life Sylvie has imagined for her. When Annie announces her pregnancy, Sylvie is horrified. Despite Sylvie’s fears, Annie’s pregnancy leads to significant discoveries with the potential to heal generations-old wounds.

Chase’s mastery of language is impressive, and her concrete images pack a considerable punch with their freshness and emotional resonance. One image she uses for lovers’ entwined feet is so perfect that I’ll never forget it.

This novel is about girls and women, especially what it means to be a mother, sister, and daughter. I sometimes lost track of identities and relationships because of the large cast of characters, but my confusion never lasted long. A web of intricate threads links characters in both timelines, leading to a satisfying ending. Sure to please fans of Kate Morton and Diane Setterfield.