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REVIEW: The Marsh House by Zoë Somerville

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Marsh House by Zoe Somerville
Published by Head of Zeus Ltd on March 3, 2022
ISBN: 9781838934675
Genres: Fiction, Ghost, Historical, General, Psychological, Thrillers, Supernatural, Suspense, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The haunting second novel from the author of The Night of the Flood. Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by one, mysterious house on the North Norfolk coast.
'Part ghost story, part thriller, I loved it' Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City
December, 1962. Desperate to create a happy Christmas for her young daughter, Franny, after a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast. But once there, the strained silence between them feels louder than ever. As Malorie digs for decorations in the attic, she comes across the notebooks of the teenaged Rosemary, who lived in the house thirty years before. Trapped inside by a blizzard, and with long days and nights ahead of her, Malorie begins to read. Though she knows she needs to focus on the present, she finds herself inexorably drawn into the past...
July, 1931. Rosemary lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So when the glamorous Lafferty family moves to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades...
As Malorie reads Rosemary's diary, past and present begin to merge in this moving story of mothers and daughters, family obligation and deeply buried secrets.
Praise for The Marsh House:
'Zoë Somerville is a born storyteller and this page-turner delivers plenty of creepy thrills' The Times 'A satisfyingly dark, gothic tale where the past is never far behind you' Rhiannon Ward, author of The Quickening 'Beautifully written, atmospheric as hell, and elegantly constructed, the story of The Marsh House will draw you into its grip and never let go till the final word' Jane Johnson, author of The Sea Gate 'Deliciously eerie and unsettling, The Marsh House had me bewitched from page one. I loved its layers of history and secrets. A haunting gem of a book' Susan Allott, author of The Silence 'A fabulous read, deft and precise, with a satisfying mystery at its centre, based upon a beautifully compassionate reading of the tradition of English folk magic' Amanda Mason, author of The Hiding Place 'Immersed in the landscape of the North Norfolk coast, this is a clever, suspenseful novel that kept me intrigued. Part ghost story, part thriller, I loved it' Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City

The Marsh House seeps in atmospheric brilliance. It has the uncanny ability to remind you just how boring your life is. The novel tackles relationship breakdowns from multiple angles. A mother and daughter. A house in the country. Creepy diary entries. Personally, living in a cold, damp property in the middle of winter is a dead cert no for me but the protagonist had a story to unfold.

It’s December 1963 and Malorie escapes to the country with her daughter, Franny. Her life is changing far quicker than she could have ever anticipated. Her relationship with Franny’s father, Tony has broken down. Partly due to his multiple infidelities and Malorie’s trouble with bonding with her daughter. She’s unsure if she really wanted to be a mother, rather that it was what was expected of her. As mothers across the globe know – sometimes being a mother isn’t always what we expect. We lose a bit of ourselves along the way. Malorie seems to struggle with the idea that she has bred someone a little like herself – a lonely child. So, with the lack of support from Tony, she leaves for Marsh House, with only her daughter, their dog, a packed car, and a photograph her late father gave her.

Life isn’t always a home. Sometimes, however, we can find the ghosts of our past living in the walls, find it written on a blank page, an echo of hard times. We aren’t in control of our destinies. The only two things we can be sure of are – we are born, and we die, and everything else in between is for the taking. The ending of The Marsh House made me realise that we are rarely in control of what happens to us.

The Marsh House is hauntingly atmospheric, set alongside the Norfolk coast we are drawn into a woman discovering her strengths and weaknesses whilst she discovers her past. I can’t describe fully how much I loved this novel – it felt like poetic brilliance. It’s rare to have a book in this genre that is as fully immersive, compelling and body aching read like this. Somerville knows just how to lead her readers down a maze, blindfolded and panicky. Throw in the added element of the isolating impact of the weather and it delivers on the dread with ease.

There were secrets, lies, and a sense of creeping foreboding edging closer and closer into the reader’s peripheral vision. My goodness, I loved this book!

The Marsh House is clammy and atmospheric, it draws you in and keeps you gripped. A richly woven tapestry of unfolding relationships and escapism.


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Zoë is a writer and English teacher. Her debut novel, The Night of the Flood, was published in September 2020 by Head of Zeus. It is inspired by her home county, Norfolk and the devastating flood of the 1950s. Her second novel, The Marsh House is set in the same austere seascape of the Norfolk coast and is about mothers, daughters and ghosts. It was published in March, 2022, also by Head of Zeus.

Zoë has worked as an English teacher all over the world. This has included teaching English in Hagi, Japan, the Loire Atlantique, France and the Basque Country; several years in comprehensive schools in South London, Bath and Bristol; four years for the Hospital Education Rehabilitation Service in Somerset; and an international school in Washington, D.C. After completing a creative writing MA at Bath Spa University in 2016, she now combines writing and tutoring, and is settled in Bath with her family. 


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