Simon & Schuster. 535 pages (not counting excerpt of another book by author)
Recommended by: Eva of A Striped Armchair
From: the public library (ILL)
For the challenge: RIP V Challenge
Synopsis & Review:
Journalist Harry Fitzglen has been assigned a story that is, on the surface, a review of a new art gallery. However, his real purpose is to find out more about the featured photographer artist, Simone Anderson. When Simone was born as one half of a conjoined twin, there was a lot of media fuss stirred up on account of the twins’ politician father. But as Harry’s editor notes, the story gets a bit murky from there – a few too many people dead or disappeared.
A series of diary entries by a woman named Charlotte Quinton run alongside this story. Charlotte gave birth to conjoined twins in the early years of the 20th century. What at first seems just a slight connection to Simone’s story becomes even more complex further in the book.
A Dark Dividing is told in multiple voices from different eras: Charlotte; Simone’s mother, Mel, at the time of the twins’ infancy; Simone herself as a child and as an adult; and Harry, the outsider, flexing his research skills and digging deeper. Also, a nurse named Roz has some sections of narrative.
Sarah Rayne handles these multiple narratives by frequently using a phrase from the end of one narrative and placing it into the beginning of the next narrative. It’s a transparent segue device but it works here, because the story is all about parallels and connections.
At the center of the multiple narratives is the chilling Mortmain House, a forbidding ruin that used to function in Victorian times as a work house and also as a place for abandoned and orphaned children.
The book definitely had lots of atmosphere, especially as the Mortmain House was concerned. One of the creepiest moments was when the child Simone enters the decrepit Mortmain house and the flash of her camera reveals that she is not alone.
Simone was definitely my favorite character, but I was invested in all the stories and characters, even minor ones like Mel’s steadfast friend, Isabel.
What with this book and also Little Face, British thrillers seem to be winning out with me lately. Sarah Rayne is now another author I will have to seek out again.
A Striped Armchair – “… the characters all felt so real, and the plots were quite fun (the twists were pretty transparent, but I don’t think that was the point, you know?), and the writing was marvelous.”
Litter Critter – “… the writing is refreshing in its honesty and the hints of humour throughout only bring more poignancy to an already fantastic read.”
Servant of the Secret Fire – “In this elegant and atmospheric thriller, Sarah Rayne shifts effortlessly among multiple viewpoints . . . without ever losing the thread of her complicated story, and keeps the reader turning the pages until the satisfying ending, which is the most difficult trick of all, since I find that books that start out with promising premises such as this one often fall flat at the end.”