Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Essie Fox – Elijah’s Mermaid and The Last Days of Leda Grey

I have always loved gothic fiction so it seemed only right that I include some in my recommended reads. Essie is a historical author and as well as her captivating novels writes a fascinating blog called The Virtual Victorian. I first discovered her some years back when reviewing for Lovereading. I am an admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and so I immediately fell in love Elijah’s Mermaid.

I have chosen two of her books today. Elijah’s Mermaid, and her latest novel, The Last Days of Leda Grey. Both are excellent as are all of her published works. Do check her out. She is an incredibly interesting writer both in her novels and on her blog. I am planning to devote a piece about her in more depth next year but for now here is a little more about her books.

Saved from the Thames one foggy London night, Pearl grows up at the House of Mermaids – a brothel that becomes the closest thing to home. But despite being cosseted and spoiled by the Madame, come her 14th year, Pearl is to be sold to the highest bidder.

Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah are on a rare trip to London when they meet the ethereal Pearl. And the repercussions of this chance encounter will bind all their fates together, in a dark and dangerous way. 

Bewitching, gothic and sensual, this is a tale of love and betrayal in a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey. Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.

As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois. ‘

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Adult Fiction

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

I originally reviewed this title last year for Lovereading. 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 thoroughly recommend checking her out if you haven’t already discoverer her. Read on for my Lovereading review or click on the link above to go direct to their website.

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.

Published by Orion.
Published in paperback: 14th November 2017

Reviewed originally for Lovereading.