My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - under 3 days on and off
Pages - 400
Publisher - Penguin
Blurb from Goodreads
Fifteen-year-old Maisy Mitcham and her twin brother Duncan lose their mother to an asylum one night in 1960.
The twins are sent to their grandmother's country house, Nightingales. Cold and distant, she leaves them to their own devices, to explore and to grow. That is until the day Duncan doesn't come home from the woods.
With their grandmother seeming to have little interest in her grandson's disappearance, and the police soon giving up hope, it is left to Maisy to discover the truth. And she will start with Grace Deville. A woman who lives alone in the wood, about whom rumours abound . . .
Maisy and Duncan Mitcham, fifteen years and and about to have their world turned upside down. They always knew their mother was unwell but to be removed from their home and both children sent to live with their elderly grand mother? With everything they know removed, a grand mother as cold as their father who just abandoned them, the twins get to know the people around them. They hear of the woman in the woods, Grace, anti social, withdrawn and down right rude the child are drawn to find out more. An unlikely friendship turns to suspicion when Duncan goes missing, no one seems as bothered as Maisy and Maisy will not settle until she finds out what happened to her brother even if it means bringing danger to herself.
Oh guys I do love Pearse, her books are often gentle with hard hitting topics dottered throughout, The Woman in the Wood is no different. We cover a range of life issues, mental health, family, relationships, abuse, disappearance, crime, the darker side of humanity and the old societal prejudices. A bit of a slow burner in the beginning to get to know the characters, the kids are pretty much the main characters and we see them learn to adapt with being abandoned by their father. When he does interact with them there is no affection and when we meet the grand mother we start to see why. A proud woman with no huge value on affection on children, little respect for their mother and rather set in her ways.
The book takes a dark turn when Duncan goes missing, there has been a spate of boy going missing and a killer is on the loose. Whilst Maisy is forced to move on she can never let go and braves approaching Grace, the woman from the woods for help. Grace is a fantastic character, excluded from society and in herself very guarded, through Maisy we start to see another side to this abrupt "weird" woman. Through their quest to find out what happened to Duncan, we see just how strong and loyal Grace is with a fierce streak, these two woman go on a mission that will change everything!
There are so many aspects of this book we could focus on, one thing I loved was just how strong the female characters were. Maisy, even at fifteen has a great sense of right and wrong and challenges things which for that time period (1960s) would raise an eyebrow let alone modern day. Grace is something else, having being hurt, judged and ostracized from her own people she still has righteousness and metal to make a stand when called upon. Whilst many aspects of this book are dark, and heinous there is so much that is beautiful. Strong women, the importance of relationships, the good of people, loyalty, friendship and things that take ordinary people and make them extraordinary. I could have read this in one sitting but work and life got in the way, 4/5 for me this time. I have many of this author still to read, I bought up quite a few after her last book so will certainly be reading her again. Pearse is one of those authors that has yet to disappoint, her writing just envelopes you and snares you into the story practically from the get go. Thanks to Netgalley for providing an arc of this book, The Woman in the Wood is now available to buy, let me know what you thought of it!