I received an Uncorrected Proof of this book. All opinions are my own.
Rita was hired as a nanny for the wealthy Harrington family, to care for angsty, adolescent Hera, rambunctious young Teddy, and the new baby due soon. It was her dream job, working for the glamorous family in London but when tragedy strikes, Rita ends up at Foxcote Manor, the Harringtons’ forest home, with Hera and Teddy and their mother Jeannie, recently returned from a stay at The Lawns after a nervous breakdown. There is no new baby and instead Rita has been tasked by Jeannie’s husband Walter to take notes on his wife.
This part of the story is told mostly from Rita’s perspective but with insights also from Hera, who loves her mother and resents her family and suspects that things were not as straightforward as she’s been told the night her baby sister was born.
Alternating with this 1970s-set story is the the modern day story of Sylvie, a forty-something woman newly separated from her husband. Her 18-year-old daughter Annie is resentful of the impending divorce and Sylvie’s mother has recently suffered an accident that leaves her in a coma. Sylvie has a history of not confronting the past but Annie is beginning to dig and together they are forced to look more deeply at Sylvie’s origins.
This was an entertaining read. The characters are all likeable and easy to follow. It isn’t particularly difficult to see where the connection between the two timelines lies and most of the reveals are easy to spot well before they are spelled out. The couple of “twists” that I didn’t predict seemed pretty farfetched, there simply to tie a very neat (and rather unrealistic) bow on the end of the story.
The core of the novel is mother-daughter relationships and what that entails. What makes that relationship a significant one and why does it exist? Is it about blood connection? Is it about care or sacrifice? Rita is the nanny but cares for Hera and Teddy deeply and is more present and aware for the children than their own parents are. But how much will she sacrifice for them? How much should she when their own parents can take them away at any moment?
The book seems to be marketed as a thriller but I’m not sure it truly is. While there’s definitely some mystery here, I never felt a lot of tension. The stakes never felt that high to me and it seemed like no matter how things turned out, the characters would probably be fine. The setting of the forest and the long-forgotten manor is clearly supposed to be ominous but for me Chase never succeeded in making me feel like the forest was a truly dangerous place. Perhaps a reader who went into this book with a fear of trees would feel differently but I actually read the novel while camping in the woods and even that didn’t create any unease for me.
I haven’t read any of Eve Chase’s previous novels though it appears that she favours mansions in the woods and dual timelines. While overall entertaining, The Daughters of Foxcote Manor isn’t a particularly strong offering and I have to wonder if her previous works might be more thrilling.