Kerstin Kvist didn't quite know what to expect when she took up a job with the Cosway family at their old, almost grand, house, Lydstep Old Hall, deep in the Essex countryside . . . just as she was beginning to get some inkling of what was going on in the house, a stranger with a glamorously bohemian aura moved into the village and his presence set the Cosway family on a path to self-destruction.
- From the 2005 Viking hardback edition
- Several elements in this story recall earlier Vine stories: the single female narrator looking back towards the 1960s is at times evocative of The House Of Stairs, the Swede abroad theme echoes Asta's Book, and the family of murderous females has something in common with A Dark-Adapted Eye.
- On page 58, Zorah says "What fresh hell is this?", a remark attributed to Virginia Woolf by the narrator. The quote is generally associated with Dorothy Parker. It isn't entirely clear if this is a research error, a deliberate comment on the narrator's literary ignorance, or if Woolf did in fact use the quote in her work despite its more famous association with Parker.
April 7, 2005
I am very grateful to Lord Alderdice FRCPsych for his scrutiny of the character of John Cosway and the expert advice he gave me. My thanks are also again due to Richard, Lord Acton, a fine copy editor.
"A classic Vine brew of distorted personalities hurtling towards disaster . . . This is Vine at her idiosyncratic best, with her compelling trademark world of distress and disorder."
- Penelope Lively, The Sunday Times
The narrative and medical details are less complex than in its predecessor, but Lydstep Old Hall is such a well-realised setting that this is unlikely to upset many readers. A fine read, where (as in so much of Vine) the mystery element is distinctly secondary to the pleasures of character.