About the Book:
From the bestselling author of The Familiars and The Foundling comes Stacey Halls’ most compelling and ambitious novel to date.
West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
Stacey Halls is a marvellous author of historical fiction. I’ve read each of her novels and loved them fiercely: The Familiars, The Foundling, and now, Mrs England. I found this to be quite an empowering read, to be honest, and I admired both Ruby, the main character, and Mrs England herself, who we get to know through Ruby’s perspective.
‘There were so many things I wanted to ask her – what Mr Sheldrake put in his letter; why her husband locked her in her room. Why she had such disdain for her entire family; why she was, as her mother put it, like lint swept into a corner, brittle and lonely. Why nobody came to the house; why she never left it.’
Ruby was a complex character with a complex history that was revealed in pieces. Mrs England was perhaps more straightforward, at the mercy of her family to marry well, as high-born women were, and then passed on as property to the husband of their choosing. At first, a wall existed between these two vastly different women, but slowly, as events within the England’s home became odder, and more sinister, that wall began to crumble.
‘For a long time I’d struggled with people’s sympathy. They would always insist on giving it to me, but it was so heavy, and I had no wish to be burdened with it.’
This novel is a brilliantly crafted story of that most insidious and vile form of domestic violence: gas lighting. Within this story, the author has demonstrated the wide reaching and cataclysmic effects it can have on an entire household. Mrs England is my highlight novel of the year, completely living up to my high expectations of Stacey Halls and topping even her previous two as favourites. I absolutely loved the way this novel ends for both of these women, particularly that very last exchange between Ruby and Mrs England. It doesn’t get better than this for historical fiction fans.
‘For the first time in my life, I was in charge, and I would savour every moment.’
Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of Mrs England for review.
About the Author:
Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, the Independent, the Sun and Fabulous. Her first book, The Familiars, was the bestselling debut hardback novel of 2019, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ Debut Book of the Year.
Published by Bonnier – Manilla
Released on 1st June 2021