The Drowned Village

Written by Kathleen McGurl
Review by Lisa Redmond

Kathleen McGurl is fast establishing herself as a master of the multi-period novel in which a mystery from the past has implications for the present, and The Drowned Village fits firmly into this mould. The contemporary story involves a care worker called Laura who, following a bitter break-up, takes a walking and camping holiday in the Lake District. She wants to explore the area where her grandmother grew up, especially as a severe drought has dried out a reservoir exposing the ruins of the village beneath.

The historical tale threaded through with Laura’s is that of her grandmother, Stella. She is just eleven years old in 1935 when the village where her family has lived and worked for generations is being emptied out in preparation for the new reservoir. Stella hasn’t told her granddaughter much about her childhood, but now she asks her help to find an old tin which had been hidden beneath the floorboards of her childhood home.

As Stella’s story unfolds, the reader comes to realise the secret from her past. Laura meanwhile has met a new friend, but as her new life and her old come head to head, she faces a race against time to help discover her gran’s secret and solve the mystery from the past.

McGurl is a fantastic storyteller, weaving the two stories carefully together with enough tension to make both compelling. Her characters feel very real: they have anxieties and flaws and they make mistakes, but at the heart of the story we have two strong and determined heroines that the reader can root for. It’s compelling and romantic; McGurl manages just the right blend of family saga, mystery and romance. Perfect for fans of Hazel Gaynor, Tracy Rees and Lucinda Riley.