The Marsh House

Written by Zoe Somerville
Review by Lisa Redmond

It is 1962, and Malorie is a young mum who has run away with her little daughter Franny to a cottage in Norfolk just before Christmas. Unprepared and more ill at ease with each passing day, Malorie tries to organise a nice Christmas for her daughter, but is haunted by her recent betrayal by her husband. Rather than deal with the fall out over the festive period, she becomes instead drawn to an older mystery.

While searching the attic for Christmas decorations Malorie finds a trove of old photos and notebooks and becomes caught up in reading a diary written by a teenager who lived in the house in the 1930s with her strict father. Rosemary had been fascinated by new arrivals to the village, the glamorous and wealthy Laffertys.  However, nobody in the village now admits to knowing anything about Rosemary or the Laffertys or why the Marsh House has sat empty for so long, though it seems clear that the house scares them. Malorie is intrigued and frightened.

As they move into the coldest winter of the century and the marsh seems increasingly hostile, Malorie realises that something links her and Rosemary.  Why else would her mother have had a picture of the Marsh House?  Zoë Somerville’s second novel is an assured and haunting blend of mystery and ghost story. The Marsh House and the marsh itself loom large as characters in this book and the two eras explored, the pre-war innocence of 1930s rural England and the glamour of 1960s London, are brilliantly evoked. An ideal read for fans of atmospheric historical fiction such as that of Sarah Perry or Sarah Moss.