In a valley steeped in legend lies an abandoned house where Edens may be lost, found and remade…
The White Valley in the far west of Cornwall cuts deeply through bluebell woods down to the sea. The house above the beach has lain neglected since the war. It comes with a reputation, which is why Mila and her mother Magda acquire it so cheaply in the fateful summer of 1954.
Magda plans to restore the house to its former glory: the venue for glittering parties, where the rich and celebrated gathered for bracing walks by day and sumptuous cocktails by night. Mila’s ambitions, meanwhile, are much less grand; she dreams of creating a safe haven for herself, and a happy home for her little girl, Janey.
The White Valley comes with a long, eventful history, laced with tall tales. Locals say that a white hare may be seen running through the woods there; to some she’s an ill omen, to others a blessing. Feeling fragile and broken-hearted, Mila is in need of as many blessings as she can get. But will this place provide the fresh start she so desperately needs?
I could not get enough of this book. I love books that feel heavy with mystery and history and folklore, that are atmospheric and surprising. This book had all of that, PLUS rabbits! Ok so not like rabbits running around being super cute but sort of maybe ominous and curious most of the book because you are not quite sure what the heck is going on but you know, just know, something is afoot, and the white hare totally has something to do with it.
The story is set in Cornwall, in a house that has a mysterious past, and not a good one from what new owner Mila can surmise. No one will really tell her just what happened there, just that it is a “cursed place”. But hopeful Mila, who just wants a whimsical, safe, loving childhood for her daughter, Janey, has high hope for their new home. Not as high of hopes as her own mother however, Magda, who plans on turning the house into a ritzy high end inn for travelers. Janey, for her perspective, instantly takes to the house and particularly the land, and runs a bit wild and free, which I loved.
This is one of those books I don’t want to get into much detail or talk too much about – I think there is just too much to spoil for a reader.
I will say that it reading it reminded me so much of reading a book by Barbara Michaels or Mary Stewart, which is high praise from me because I love those two authors. There is a timelessness about it, a quietness despite the unease that grows as the book moves along. I wanted to pull on my wellies and explore the bluebell woods, the beach, learn about the turbulent history of the area (oh, I can do that one) along with these characters. I want to sit in the kitchen with Keziah and Ariadne, ramble the hills with Jack. It was one of those books guys, where you just fall right into that world, and then when it is over, you are left feeling a little lost because you are not there anymore.
This book is definitely one of my favorite reads this year so far. I look forward to rereading it again and again!