Review published on August 15, 2017.
In 1932, eleven-year-old Billy Shaw and his family live and work at Potter’s Pleasure Palace, a mill converted into a popular entertainment venue in Yorkshire. Then, suddenly, Billy is sent to be a companion for Jasper Harper up at the big house above the valley and his life changes for ever. Jasper’s eccentric author mother Edie and her brother Charles live a bohemian existence at remote High Hob while Jasper himself is wild and unruly and obsessed with the idea of a Beast that roams the moors. In the present-day Anna Sallis arrives at Ackerdean Mill as the new custodian of the heritage centre and begins to dig into the past of the area and its families.
The narrative flips between these two timescales in the voices of Billy and Anna and I quickly found myself caught up in the place and the characters. The plot is carefully constructed and suggests plenty of mysteries to be solved – were the deaths of Edie and Charles really suicides or something more sinister? Why is Nathaniel Potter so set against the budding romance between young Billy and his daughter Lizzie? Why are some people so reluctant for Anna to delve into the past secrets of the mill?
The location is very convincing and atmospheric and I was not surprised to discover it is based on a real former cotton mill near Hebden Bridge. There are plenty of twists and revelations towards the end of the book, all making it a satisfying read for anyone who enjoys unravelling the past and its secrets. I think book groups would find plenty to discuss too.
Gwenda Major 4/4
The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey
Orion 9781409168553 hbk Jul 2017