The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman
I have become absolutely spoiled with advance copies from publishers. I keep picking them up, only to find the same stack languishing on my desk months later. I picked this one up ages ago, because it looked good at the time, and then promptly forgot. But I picked it up again in the hopes that it might be, as advertised, a “gothic page-turner.” I found myself sucked in immediately. It’s the summer of 1967 and Maisie, Julie, and Finn are three sisters living in an old abbey in rural England. Their father died and their mother and grandfather look after them and the estate. The beginning is narrated by Maisie, a gawky, odd 13-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her father’s death, her sisters’ beauty, and the ghosts of the nuns who visit and speak with her. Daniel, a family friend, is a handsome boy with gypsy blood who is positively besotted with Finn, whose affections may not be his alone. A young painter, Luke, is also staying at the abbey, and is working on a painting of the sisters that will immortalize the girls and that fateful summer. When a tragedy strikes the abbey, all of their lives are changed forever. Flash forward to 1991, where we catch up with Daniel, a broken-down man who has achieved wealth, but left his former self behind. Still searching for the truth and for Finn, Daniel plumbs the past for answers. There are lots of twists and turns in this story, and the writing really moved me to continue. A satisfying gothic family saga.