“What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly.
Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.”
Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland. My thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for the invitation and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This book is very different to anything I have read recently. A contemporary novel with a Gothic slant that is a slow burn but utterly compelling and powerful. It really took me buy surprise.
It is told in alternating chapters in the first person voices of Mac and Lucie, which gives us two very different perspectives on the narrative. Mac is a retired history lecturer writing her first fiction book based on local folk lore, who becomes increasingly obsessed with the local legend of two sisters and their fraught relationship. Lucie is a woman running from her own family problems who arrives on Mac’s doorstep hiding a secret of her own, to take up the position as Mac’s Girl Friday. As time passes, their relationship becomes increasingly fractured as the past and present narratives begin to take parallel turns, secrets are revealed and Mac’s mental health seems to unravel alarmingly.
This book has a very small cast of characters, a tight plot, limited scope of place and a slow pace, but it is completely engrossing. I was totally enthralled from page one and read the whole thing in a single day, as I simply could not put it down, and this is purely due to the consumate skill of the writing.
The characters are brilliantly drawn, and their journey through the book and the way they develop from start to finish, starting off seemingly fairly ordinary but gradually revealing their secrets over the course of the book in a way that paints them in a totally different light to us by the end, is masterful. I started off with one set of opinions and had a totally different viewpoint by the end.
The plot is very cleverly drawn, interwoven with scenes from Mac’s book and the story of the two sisters, which may or may not be based on historical fact; the lines between fact and fiction, truth and lies, past and present become increasingly blurred until neither the reader nor the characters are entirely sure what real and what is imaginary and we are left trying to work out what really happened right until the end of the book. It makes the book seem to exist in a slightly other-worldly, dreamlike state which I really loved.
This impression is compounded by the setting which is so atmospheric and wonderfully captured in the author’s descriptions. The decrepit old mill, which starts up at odd times of day and night, the ramshackle Miller’s Cottage with its winding corridors and strange noises and Mac’s disorganised and chilly house which she is reduced to closing off in large part to preserve heat. It all adds up the menacing and increasingly creepy atmosphere and its remoteness increases the feeling of being cut off from reality. The setting is oppressive and this feeling ramps up as the events in the book grow increasingly dangerous. It was perfectly portrayed and an integral part of my enjoyment of the book.
The author’s use of language is beautiful. I revelled in phrases such as ‘The pond, blackberry-dark, glints juicily under the full moon.’ The book is studded with gorgeous and evocative language that I had to stop and just savour for a moment before moving on. However, the book also flows brilliantly, drawing you form chapter to chapter. It was a joy to read.
I loved this book. It is totally unique, original and gripping. It got under my skin and had me thinking about it for a long time afterwards. It really made an impression on me, which is the most one can ask for from a good read.
Bone Deep is out now and you can purchase a copy here.
If you would like to read other bloggers’ opinions of the book, you can follow the tour here:
About the Author
Sandra Ireland was born in England but lived for many years in Éire before returning ‘home’ to Scotland in the 1990s. She is the author of Beneath the Skin, a psychological thriller, which was shortlisted for a Saltire Literary Award in 2017. Her second novel, Bone Deep, a modern Gothic tale of sibling rivalry, inspired by an old Scottish folktale, will be published in the UK by Polygon in July, and in the US (Gallery) and Germany (Penguin) next year. She also writes poetry, often inspired by the seascapes of Scotland’s rugged east coast. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies, including Seagate III (Dundee), and New Writing Scotland. She won the Dorothy Dunbar Trophy for Poetry, awarded by the Scottish Association of Writers, in 2017 and 2018. Sandra is Secretary of Angus Writers’ Circle and one third of the Chasing Time Team, which runs writing retreats in a gloriously gothic rural setting.
Connect with Sandra:
Facebook: Sandra Ireland Author
Goodreads: Sandra Ireland