England, 1911. Reverend Albert Canning, a vicar with a passion for spiritualism - and his naive wife, Hester - led a happy existence in the sleepy parish of Cold Ash Holt, Berkshire. As summer dawns, their quiet lives are changed forever by two new arrivals. First comes Cat, the new maid; a free-spirited and disaffected young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the suffragette movement and with the law. Over-educated for her station, Cat baulks at her life of servitude, quickly finding a place for herself in the secret underbelly of local society as she plots her escape. Then comes Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, with whom Albert has been in correspondence, enticed to visit Cold Ash Holt by the vicar's tales of elemental beings in the water meadows around the village. A young man of magnetic charm and beauty, Robin Durrant soon becomes an object of fascination and repressed passion for Albert. During a long spell of oppressive summer heat, the rectory at Cold Ash Holt becomes charged with ambition, love and jealousy; a mixture of emotions so powerful that it leads, ultimately, to murder.
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The number one aspect is the strong character "Cat". You feel powerfully drawn to her from the moment she enters the story. She is the underdog (despite her nickname) with a really gritty character you are rooting for throughout.
The suffragette details through Cat's experiences were also presented well.
As mentioned already, the maid Cat. She'd been 'cruelly' educated above her station. She's almost ahead of her time.
I quite like the little scenes where you get to nose about as Cat reading letters and notes she finds whilst cleaning up at the rectory. Nobody suspects a maid would be able to read.
Quite a mix of feelings from anger and frustration, hope, disgust, admiration, joy. It helps having the Victorian class structure to show up the inequalities of position and sex at the time.
I'd like to commend the use of the present tense in the novel. It really helps in painting a picture of the various scenes.
I bought the audible book in a sale and didn't listen to it for a long time. Wondered why I'd bought it, however, it has ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year. I'll be looking out for other Katherine Webb publications. 5/5