I have had The Unseeing by Ann Mazzola in my TBR for two years and every time I intended to read it something prevented me so when The Story Keeper arrived unexpectedly thanks to Jenni Leech at Headline I was determined to read it as soon as I could. I’m delighted to share my review of The Story Keeper today.
The Story Keeper will be published by Tinder Press, part of the Headline Publishing Group, on 26th July 2018 and is available for pre-order here.
The Story Keeper
Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.
My Review of The Story Collector
Needing to escape London, Audrey takes a position assisting a collector of local tales on the Isle of Skye.
What a fabulous book! The Story Keeper has absolutely everything to make it such a wonderful read. Firstly, Anna Mazzola writes with such skill that the language, style and descriptions are perfect for the era in which the book is set whilst still being totally fresh and accessible to the modern reader. There’s high quality research that underpins the story making it so convincing without ever detracting from the narrative. I really felt I understood what life was like on Skye in the mid 1800s. I loved the manner in which gender and social politics are an integral part of the story, but presented in such a way as to be velvet smooth within the writing. For me The Story Keeper ranks with the quality and traditions of Mary Shelley and George Eliot in presenting superstition, fable, women, history and social etiquette and mores with remarkable incision and effectiveness in a tapestry of intrigue and mystery.
The plot is intoxicating because Anna Mazzola blurs the lines between superstition and reality so effectively that the reader is unsure what to believe. Everything is both possible and plausible making for a thrilling read. Her descriptions sent a shiver down my spine and the underlying menace, as I never knew who could be trusted and what might happen next, gave me genuine heart-thumping moments. The Story Keeper is a wonderful amalgamation of superstition, violence and deception with crime and social history perfectly balanced.
I loved everything about The Story Keeper. I thought the characters were intense, believable and so convincing. I thought the story line was astonishingly good and brilliantly resolved. I found the weaving of truth and fiction skilled and dynamic so that I enjoyed reading every word.
In my opinion, The Story Keeper is a book of exceptional quality and is not to be missed.
About Anna Mazzola
Anna Mazzola is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.
Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.
She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.