The Ghost of Gosswater

Lucy Strange

Published by Chicken House Books – 1st October 2020

Sometimes you just know a book is going to be a perfect match for you and from the moment I read the synopsis of The Ghost of Gosswater I knew I had to read it…

“It looks like the shimmer of starlight on the lake – opal white.

It is moving, as if blown by the wind, towards the brightly lit windows of Gosswater Hall.

It is a girl – the shape of a girl…”

I wasn’t disappointed; a ghost story, a thrilling mystery, intrigue, gripping suspense, a treacherous villain, heroes, heroines all in a gothic Lake District setting …this was everything one could want in a book and then some!

It is a cold, wet morning on the 21st December 1899. The morning after the death of 12 year old Lady Agatha Asquith’s father. Gosswater Hall stands grand and foreboding on the banks of a sparkling lake – the residence of the Asquith family for generations. Delicate Lady Agatha is accustomed to a life of fine things: afternoon tea on the terrace, silk gowns for every occasion, five course lunches with crystal glasses and fine bone china. But within the opening pages of the book, Lady Agatha’s life takes a shocking turn.

With the Earl dead, Agatha’s cruel cousin Clarence has inherited everything. Fuelled by greed, arrogance, he makes a ‘clean sweep’ of the hall and dismisses all the staff – the butler, the housekeepers, the valet, the footmen, no-one is spared – everyone is ordered to pack their bags…including Agatha.

Clarence delights in revealing in the coldest of ways that the Earl and Countess were not in fact Agatha’s real parents. Waving her father’s will in the air, he declares that she is not legally entitled to anything and then drops a colossal bomb-shell;

“You are illegitimate, you are a nobody and you are leaving tomorrow”

Shocked to her core, Agatha learns that Clarence has already arranged for her to be collected the following day. Lady Agatha Asquith is cast out of her imposing ancestral home to a ram-shackle cottage and Thomas Walters, a goose-farmer; the man who is supposedly her father. Other than a few modest garments, Clarence forbids her to take any of her cherished possessions. Although stripped of her riches and her title, ‘Aggie’ refuses to be ‘nothing’ and is determined she will leave Gosswater with something valuable. On the eve of her departure, she slips the ‘King Stone.’ one of two precious family opals into her luggage.

In the days before her father’s funeral, Aggie struggles to adjust to her new life as a pauper. Having wanted for nothing and been used to being waited on, she is utterly helpless. Starched linen tablecloths and cinnamon crumpets for breakfast seem like a lifetime ago.

On the day of the funeral, Aggie and the other mourners row out across the misty lake to Skelter Island; the island where the dead of Gosswater Hall are buried. Here, Aggie meets young Bryn Black, the grandson of gravedigger Sexton Black. Bryn and his grandfather live on a shack on the island behind the ancient church and Aggie and Bryn are instantly drawn together. Two lost souls find each other and it is the start of a wonderful friendship. Whilst exploring the graves and tombs, Bryn persuades Aggie to go ghost hunting and on New Year’s Eve, she sneaks out of the farmhouse to meet him on the shore. The pair row out once again to the island and it marks the start of a series of hauntings. These seem to be connected to Aggie and with Bryn’s help, she is determined to solve the mystery of her real identity. But there are many darks secrets of the past that must be uncovered before she can get to the truth.

Once Clarence realises the King Stone is missing, he will stop at nothing to recover it and we see the truly despicable and dangerous things he is capable of. I really can’t risk saying anymore but… the end of Chapter 27 and 37 oh my goodness…and the nail-biting climax will have your heart racing!

I really didn’t want the story to end and I wish I could go back and read it for the very first time. I can’t even think about moving onto reading another book just yet – I may just go back to the beginning and re-read it so I can enjoy it all over again!

Never mind children, I defy any adult not to enjoy this book! This is such an atmospheric read, perfect now the nights are drawing in and blustery autumn weather has begun. It would be a fantastically gripping read aloud with Year 5 or 6 (age 9+) in the classroom and I’m sure it would have children begging their parents to ‘read just one more chapter’ with or alongside them at home. So draw the curtains, light some candles and listen to the wind outside whilst enjoying the Ghost of Gosswater.

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