The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood
Publishing Date: 20th February 2020
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 320
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Psychological Thriller, Suspense
**THE THIRD NAIL-BITING THRILLER FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF MY SISTER’S BONES AND DAY OF THE ACCIDENT**
No matter how far you run . . .
He’s never far behind
Lisa needs to disappear. And her friend’s rambling old home in the wilds of Yorkshire seems like the perfect place. It’s miles away from the closest town, and no one there knows her or her little boy, Joe.
But when a woman from the local village comes to visit them, Lisa realizes that she and Joe aren’t as safe as she thought.
What secret has Rowan Isle House – and her friend – kept hidden all these years?
And what will Lisa have to do to survive, when her past finally catches up with her?
Lisa has just left her husband, taking their 3 years old son with her. She doesn’t have a plan, she only knows that she has to go to Rowan Isle House, somewhere in Yorkshire, because her friend promised her it is to be the safest place in the world. Only after her arrival, Lisa realises that it’s a dilapidated, lonely old house at the lake, with no running water, no heating, not really fit to live in. But she doesn’t have another choice – she needs a safe place, no matter how it looks like.
Going back in time, the plot introduces us to a young girl, living in the same house with her father. She knows him as “Sarge” – he’s a soldier, a veteran of the Gulf War and, as it quickly becomes obvious to the reader, suffering from PTSD. He’s training his daughter to be a soldier, teaching her to hunt, kill and survive off the land, but also controlling every single aspect of her life. They both keep themselves to themselves, living an isolated life.
The characters are really well written, all so damaged and troubled, full of flaws and problems but, as we already know it, it only adds to their personalities, making them more human and realistic. Though I personally couldn’t relate to any of them, at any level, which of course made the reading this little bit more difficult, but overall I truly appreciate how well the author has created them, giving them distinctive voices. The story of the young girl, who we at first know as “Soldier”, is truly heart – breaking. Her father’s training methods are quite shocking, and it annoyed me immensely how much he controlled her, how he abused her, pressing his advantage at every opportunity, making her insecure and dependent of his moods. But Lisa’s background was, actually, not different to this of Grace – she was living a life, being controlled by her husband who has also undermined her at every single moment. I think I simply hated to see how abusive the men were towards women in this book, that it was again a case of the overwhelming feeling of being in control and undermining women from the young age. Sure, they were fighting back but well, did it turn out well for them?
Lisa was a complicated character and I wasn’t really sure how to figure her out. She wanted to be free from her husband, and yes, she run away, which is in fact already a huge step, but then nothing happens, she didn’t have a plan, she simply run in circles, acting without consideration. What bothered me also was the fact she wanted to stay unnoticed but behaved in such an odd way anytime she was around people, so really, it was a bit unbelievable. And the character of Isobel added more confusion than explanation, if you ask me. It was as if she was added to the story because she simply fitted the plot.
The story switches between the two narrations with ease and without confusion. I was all the time wondering how the two stories will eventually connect, and of course my head was full of possible scenarios, however I didn’t guess everything, no, scrap this, I guessed almost nothing. It’s a rather slow burner, it’s for sure not an action driven book, it mostly focuses on characters’, but the setting the scene and getting to know the characters’ was well done. The Rowan Isle House is a character on its own, full of darkness and hiding so many secrets, and the setting in the remote Yorkshire Dales couldn’t be better chosen, adding so much atmosphere and a sense of isolation to the story.
The book started really well, and the creepy atmosphere of uncertainty and danger was brilliantly captured. However, the closer to the end we found ourselves, the more impact it was losing. For a huge part it was a gripping and full of tension read, with the tension slowly dissolving towards the end. And you know the feeling, when you ends reading a book, so fully satisfied, as if you’ve done something special? Well, I didn’t have this feeling here, sadly.
It was twisty and dark story full of secrets, menacing, and for sure not everything there is as it may seem. It’s about abuse, control and manipulation. It’s not a comfortable read, and not an easy one but I haven’t expected it to be different – the author has already proven that she’s not afraid to dig deeper into our darker sides and touch upon hard issues. But having read Nuala Ellwood’s previous books, maybe I was expecting too much, as somehow I couldn’t quite engage with this story, couldn’t get into it. I think there were simply too many moments that required benefit of the doubt, there were too far – fetched. The characters’ actions also left much to be desired in matters of credibility and well, it was not my favourite read by this author, however, as it seems, it appeals to many other readers, which is a great thing.
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