“What Jo Baker has done, with remarkable dexterity, is to make this ghost story intensely intimate; it is a haunting that is all about the struggle to communicate. . . . It is always the sign of a knock-out ghost story when . . . you find yourself caring for all the characters—whether they happen to be alive or dead. . . . The two narratives . . . curl elegantly and movingly around one another.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
The Tellingby Jo Baker
- LendMe LendMe™ Learn More
JO BAKER was born and grew up in Lancaster, educated at Oxford and Belfast, and now teaches creative writing at Lancaster University. She is the author of two previous novels, both published by Heinemann. She is also a script writer, whose adaptation of Charlotte Bront?'s Shirley, has just won funding from the Irish Film Board.
Incorporating two time lines—one contemporary and one in mid-19th-century England—this novel (previously published in the UK in 2008) serves as a pleasant precursor to Baker's Longbourn. Readers will probably be more drawn to the historical narrative about housemaid and bibliophile Lizzy, who finds the bookshelves of her family's new lodger irresistible. The contemporary story introduces Rachel, a new parent dealing with the recent loss of her mother, as she clears out the country cottage (inhabited by Lizzy two centuries earlier) that her parents had purchased as a retirement vacation home. Although this work is billed as a ghost story, there are only hints of any paranormal phenomena, and none of them is frightening. The period detail in Lizzy's story is deftly handled, themes of class and privilege are explored through lodger Mr. Moore's involvement in the Chartist movement for political reform, and the slowly developing romance between Mr. Moore and Lizzy is compelling, sweet, and sad. VERDICT Fans of egalitarian historical fiction with touches of romance who don't insist on happy endings will love this; the contemporary story may have less resonance for the readers who will most enjoy this novel.—Victoria Caplinger, Durham, NC
In a decaying English country cottage, the past bleeds hauntingly into the present after a fragile young woman's arrival activates echoes of grief and loss. Subtle and suggestive, Baker's (The Mermaid's Child, 2014, etc.) version of gothic delivers its ghostliness in the incidental details: ripples in the atmosphere, voices, scents, movements at the corner of an eye. The setting is an underpopulated village where Rachel, a young mother, has gone to clear out her parents' retirement home, called Reading Room Cottage. Losing her mother to cancer, at the same time she was having her own first child, has left Rachel unstable and her relationship with her partner, Mark, intermittently strained. Now alone for a couple of weeks, having left Mark and the baby behind, she finds herself sucked into an increasingly disturbing vortex of moods linked to the dwelling and its old bookcase. In alternating chapters another voice is heard—that of housemaid Lizzy, who shared the overcrowded cottage with her family and a politically minded lodger, Mr. Moore, in the mid-19th century. Through her interactions with Moore, Lizzy glimpses a different kind of existence—a world of books, intimacy, and possibility—beyond her constricted, work-dominated life. This 2008 novel by Baker, now being published for the first time in the U.S., combines several of her trademark themes: the lives of women, the past, and—particularly reminiscent of her bestselling Longbourn (2013)—the endlessly exhausting labor of the working class. Best of all, it showcases her gift for observation and fresh angle of approach. Though undoubtedly a ghost story, and at times a spooky read, the book offers acceptance and heartfelt compassion in its twin female portraits. A delicate, atmospheric ghost story with satisfying layers of insight and substance.
- Granta Books
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 380 KB
Meet the Author
Jo Baker was educated at Oxford and now lives in Belfast where she runs the Belfast Literary Festival. This is her first novel.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
Ok but falls short of what it could be