With both Stacey Halls’ previous books awaiting my attention and calling to me from my TBR, what better way of ensuring I actually read her than by participating in the blog tour for Mrs England? My enormous thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part and to the team at Bonnier for sending me a copy of Mrs England in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 10th June 2021, Mrs England is available for purchase through the links here.
Mrs England is a gripping feminist mystery where a nanny must travel to Yorkshire to a grand house filled with secrets. For there’s no such thing as the perfect family…
‘Something’s not right here.’
I was aware of Mr Booth’s eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. ‘What do you mean?’
‘In the house. With the family.’
West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the ‘angel of the house’ Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
My Review of Mrs England
Nurse May has a new position.
What an absolutely wonderful book Mrs England is. I’ve heard great praise for Stacey Halls’ writing but until I opened the pages of Mrs England I hadn’t appreciated what a beautiful, evocative and skilled author she is. Mrs England is fabulous. The settings are so clear that I could hear the rush of the waterfall or see the elements of nature that are so authentically depicted.
Ruby May’s first person narrative is alive with vivid detail, with direct speech that is totally authentic for the era and an underlying feeling of menace and secrecy that I found totally captivating. Stacey Halls’ prose has all the best elements of poetic description but is never hyperbole. Rather, she creates an atmosphere that reverberates with exquisite tension so that the reader is completely transported to the early twentieth century.
The plotting in Mrs England is taut and sophisticated. In essence, it’s fairly simple as Ruby finds her place in the England family home, but there are so many layers to uncover. I loved the gradual revealing of Ruby’s past and I was reminded of some of the great classics by Stacey Halls’ writing. Ruby is every bit as compelling as any Austen heroine and the intense portrait of middle class lifestyles in Hardcastle House was equally as authentic as Mansfield Park.
The characters are so clear and realistic that I felt invested in their lives from the very first moment. Ruby is an absolute triumph and the exploration of the psychological aspects of her personality is subtly and convincingly conveyed so that I was desperate for her to be happy and to succeed.
It’s tricky to say too much about themes without spoiling the story because everything is so intricately woven together creating a mesmerising narrative. Personality, control, manipulation, relationships, friendship, nature and nurture, and guilt and secrets all combine into an utterly compelling and fascinating read.
I’m only sorry that I haven’t found time to read Stacey Halls before now. Mrs England is an absolute triumph. It’s sophisticated, spellbinding and thoroughly entertaining. I thought it was just brilliant.
About Stacey Halls
Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, the Independent, the Sun and Fabulous. Her first book, The Familiars, was the bestselling debut hardback novel of 2019, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ Debut Book of the Year. Stacey Halls is available for interview, to write features and events. Stacey lived in Hebden bridge where the book is set while writing Mrs England and has done extensive research include at the Norland Nanny school in Bath. Key themes include ‘gaslighting; women & power and the fetishisation of nannies.
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