Saturday, October 03, 2020

Threading the Labyrinth, by Tiffani Angus

Toni Hammond is in her office in New Mexico when she's called by a lawyer in England and told she's inherited an estate. Two weeks later, she arrives at the house and gardens known as The Remains. The property dates back more than 500 years but is in a sorry state, the result of neglect and a plane crashing into it during the Second World War. Toni has obligations back in Santa Fe but is drawn to the house and its history, and the garden crowded with ghosts...

Threading the Labyrinth is the debut novel by my friend Tiffani Angus, published by Unsung Stories whose books I've followed closely. It's a strange and compelling story, as Toni - and we - learns the story of the house and gardens through the lives of the people who've tended them. We cut away to four stories from the past - in the 1770s, the early 1600s, the Second World War and then the 1860s. There are mysteries to unpick - the identity of spectres, the links between different generations - and it's never quite as simple as first appears. It's rich and vivid, full of characters who feel rounded and real.

Toni is an American in England for the first time, a little out of her depth and overwhelmed by the cultural differences. But Tiffani the author feels utterly at home in the English past, her characters and their worldviews all utterly convincing. Many of them share a love of the gardens, of grubbing in the soil, and that work compensating somehow for frustrated hopes and desires. It's a strange, unsettling ghost story, less about what is lost in the remains but how the past threads through us.

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