Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Haunting

The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh

I've read a few of Alan Titchmarsh's books before, and I enjoy his easy-to-read style. So when my son sent me this book for my birthday I was delighted. The blurb talks about a novel told in two time frames, with a genealogy element - right up my street. In fact that pretty much describes my own completed novel. So I looked forward immensely to reading it and it was allowed a major queue jump.

In the historical story, maid servant Anne Flint is witness to a tragic accident, and is then abducted. She gets away from her abductor and is subject to more adventures before finally getting back to the Hampshire village where she'd worked.

In the contemporary story, Harry Flint gives up his job as a teacher, moves into a tumbledown cottage in a remote part of Hampshire and researches his ancestors. Next door to the cottage, in an old mill, lives Alex Overton, a young widow who soon catches Harry's eye. She's got secrets of her own. Inevitably the two fall in love.

I enjoyed this story, and it's definitely easy to read. However, and it is a big however, (spoiler alert) the plot relies entirely on coincidence. Not one, but several. Harry, Alex and Harry's best mate all turn out to be descendants of the characters in the historical story. Alex just happens to be living in the mill where Anne Flint spent her last days. Harry's best mate's ancestors owned the mill, and he just happens to have a diary from 1816. In the historical story, when Anne Flint is on the run in Portsmouth, her employer's son just happens to come across her. And so it goes on. This felt like lazy plotting to me. Each event ought to occur naturally out of what's come before. If people are researching the past, they should need to actually research it, not have a diary with all the detail just handed to them. I felt quite annoyed by this in the end. My own two time period genealogical novel has no such coincidences in it.

Recommended as an easy read but don't expect to be blown away by the clever plot.

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