The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

I originally reviewed this title back when I worked for the original Lovereading. Both the website and myself have moved on but her writing still excites me. I’ve been a fan of Essie’s since first reading the wonderful Elijah’s Mermaid in 2013. Her writing is haunting and incredibly atmospheric and I’ve loved each one of her memorable novels. Essie also writes an absolutely fascinating blog as The Virtual Victorian. I’m so excited to hear that Essie has a new novel coming in 2023. The Fascination will be published by the rather wonderful Orenda Books in June 2023. I thoroughly recommend checking her out if you haven’t already discovered her. All her books are available and you can find out more by visiting her website: https://essiefox.com

Read on for my original review for The Last Days of Leda Grey.

Ed Peters, a young Fleet Street journalist, lives a hedonistic 1970’s lifestyle of which he’s grown weary. Whilst the country is in the grip of a stifling heatwave, Ed returns to his mother’s hometown of Brightland in an effort to make his peace with both her and his past. However, an encounter in a junk shop leaves him bewitched by the story of the young silent movie actress, Leda Grey. As he sets out to meet the reclusive actress both life and sanity are at risk as he enters Leda’s world and the secrets hidden away for over 60 years in her decaying cliff-top house.

The oppressiveness of the heatwave together with the trickery and magic of the silent films is incredibly atmospheric throughout the book; causing us to question what is real and what is a mirage, blurring fact and fiction. Essie’s writing is beautiful and sensuous, capturing the very essence of time, place and character perfectly. Even days after finishing this story I can still see Leda Grey sweeping through the house, both in her young innocence and later as the weary, tormented ghost of the girl she used to be. Yet there is more to this faded movie star than meets the eye. What secrets surround her and what horrors haunt both woman and house? Ed is soon drawn into her story and the curse that surrounds her. Haunting, sad and beautifully written, this is yet another stunning novel from the wonderful Essie Fox.

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