Blog tour: 31 January to 20 February 2020
No matter how far you run … He’s never far behind.
Lisa needs to disappear. And her friend’s rambling old home in the wilds of Yorkshire seems like the perfect place. It’s miles away from the closest town, and no one there knows her or her little boy, Joe.
But when a woman from the local village comes to visit them, Lisa realizes that she and Joe aren’t as safe as she thought.
What secret has Rowan Isle House – and her friend – kept hidden all these years?
And what will Lisa have to do to survive, when her past finally catches up with her?
The House on the Lake is set in two timelines and we meet Lisa Ward and her three-year-old son, Joe, in December 2018 and an unnamed girl and her ex-soldier father in 2002–2004.
Lisa is escaping her abusive and controlling husband, Mark, and, after a long drive, her and Joe arrive at Rowan Isle House, near the village of Harrowby in the Yorkshire Dales and next to a lake. The house is isolated, desolate and dilapidated – it obviously hasn’t been lived in for many years and is filthy, smelly and in a state of neglect, with no running water, electricity, gas or heating. It was Lisa’s friend’s old home and she told her that she could stay there if she ever needed to escape but it’s primitive and not fit for human habitation and Lisa feels awful bringing her son into this environment. Also, Joe is only three and can’t understand why his daddy isn’t with them.
Lisa makes a friend in a local woman called Isobel and she helps by bringing supplies, making the house a bit more hospitable by lighting the ancient stove and looking after Joe. Lisa lives in fear that Mark will discover their whereabouts or someone will work out her past and, although the house is in an isolated location, she finds it claustrophobic and she’s constantly on edge and seeing danger in the shadows.
When we first meet the young girl and her father, Sarge, she has just turned 11 and is celebrating her birthday by attempting to make her first kill with a gun. They live in the house and Sarge trains her like a soldier and they survive off the land and woods. He is a veteran of the Gulf War and is obviously suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has episodes where he relives his awful past experiences and believes he’s still in the army.
The pair live an isolated life, rarely venturing into the nearby village, as Sarge has a strong mistrust and dislike of the other villagers. He is scared and controls his daughter by training her and she is very naive and young and doesn’t know any different, at first, so is unaware that this isn’t normal.
I felt so sorry for the young girl – it’s no way to live and her father is battling with the demons in his head and is quite frightening and menacing most of the time and even physically hurts her to try and toughen her up and make her a good soldier.
In different ways, both Lisa and the young girl were controlled, dominated and abused by the men in their lives and were too afraid, initially, to stand up to the men and reject this behaviour.
At times, Rowan Isle House appears almost haunted and there’s a strong sense of evil and malevolence and that bad things have happened there. The place sounds horrible in both time periods – so crude and basic, with no mod cons – and I’d hate to have to stay there with a child!
Overall, I really enjoyed this engaging and absorbing book, which is dark and disturbing at times. It was an easy read and I flew through it in a few hours, desperate to learn more about both sets of protagonists and how their two stories were linked. By the end, there certainly had been some shocking revelations and I was surprised by how it was all resolved.
It was a well-written, tense read but quite slow paced. I was waiting for something awful to happen to both characters – there was a great sense of uneasiness, tension and foreboding and the descriptions of the house and both main protagonists were great. I felt like I could smell the house and see the horrors lurking within!
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About the author
Nuala Ellwood is the author of two bestselling novels: My Sister’s Bones, for which she was selected as one of The Observer’s ‘New Faces of Fiction 2017’, and Day of the Accident. The House on the Lake is her latest novel.
Nuala teaches Creative Writing at York St John University, and lives in the city with her young son.
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