REVIEWED BY LINDA HILL
The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond is dark, disturbing and deliciously creepy. It’s a story that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up…
The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond: Synopsis
Set in Norfolk with a cold graveyard, obfuscating snow, threatening woodland and the sinister and secretive Mistcoate House, this is Gothic writing of the most compelling kind. Descriptions are employed so unnervingly that it’s hard not to wonder whether that shadow in the corner is something other than mere darkness.
Housekeeper Mrs Hayes has more than a touch of du Maurier’s malevolent Mrs Danvers about her — the more we learn more about her the more we fear what she is capable of doing. She’s manipulative, unsettling and scary, but as we grow to understand her, we gain some sympathy for her too.
Olivia herself has an ethereal and frail quality, but to view her as weak is to misjudge her tenacity, her willfulness and her considerable unworldly talents. What is so captivating is the fact we never quite know what she can see as she examines the tarot cards she receives from Mrs Hayes.
However, it is Julia Pearlie who is the most mesmerising. As a result of the dramatic prologue, the first-person voice, her visions and dreams and her great mental strength, Julia leaps from the page as a multifaceted and engaging character. Not all her actions and choices are entirely honest or rational, yet you’ll be on her side throughout because underpinning everything she does is the need to survive in a world dominated by those who try to control or destroy her.
As well as being a story that twists, turns and entertains, there are absorbing themes that add depth to The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond. Feminism, marriage, spiritualism, truth, identity and deception are set alongside historical detail and accuracy, the manipulation of women by men in power, true love, and an exploration of mental illness. All these aspects ripple beneath a supernatural ghostliness that makes the book perfect for reading on a dark and stormy evening.
It’s a captivating, immersive, dark tale of obsession, manipulation and fierce, fierce emotion that leaves you reeling. I thought it was magnificent.