At Fourwinds they gather: Alice and Ralph, Patricia and Peter, to celebrate the marriage of their children. The marquee is on the lawn, breathing in and out in the summer heat. But the bride is nowhere to be seen.
As both families are drawn together, the past floods through the corridors of the old house. What secret has Ralph been keeping from his wife? What is it about Alice's wartime encounter with Peter that has haunted her ever since? And what could have caused Sarah to vanish without a word to any of the people she loves?
Moving from the orange groves of Valencia and the spacious houses of the British countryside to the post-war slums in the north, Return to Fourwinds is a sweeping, lyrical story of the things we tell and the things we keep to ourselves. Is Sarah's disappearance a culmination of the pressures that have kept the two families apart? Or can they work together to bring her back to Fourwinds?
Return to Fourwinds is Elisabeth Gifford's second novel, I reviewed her first book, Secrets of the Sea House here on Random Things in July 2013. I really enjoyed this author's first novel and was delighted to see a quote from my review printed in the paperback edition, so I was really keen to read Return to Fourwinds which was published by Corvus (Atlantic Books) on 4 September 2014.
Once again, Elisabeth Gifford has based her story on secrets.
These secrets have been kept within two families for decades and it is when two couples travel to Fourwinds; a house that played a major part in their stories, that the secrets slowly begin to expose themselves. Alice and Ralph's son Nicky is to be married to Patricia and Peter's daughter Sarah. It is clear that these two couples have shared memories from their past, but when Sarah disappears just before the wedding, these secrets can no longer be kept.
Elisabeth Gifford weaves a wonderful story, moving from 1981 Derbyshire back to Spain and England during World War Two, and she does this effortlessly, transporting the reader swiftly from the modern-day problems to the drama of life during the War.
The author has combined so many threads within Return to Fourwinds, dealing with complex and often dark and distressing issues expertly. She brings her characters to life with a flourish, whether dealing with the vulnerabilities of a young boy in a strange country, or the class distinctions of England and how they affect relationships.
Return to Fourwinds is based on real secrets recently uncovered in the author's own family history about a mysteriously awarded OBE during World War II, and it is knowing that this that adds so much to this compelling and intriguing story.
Huge praise from me to Elisabeth Gifford, her writing goes from strength to strength. I was immersed in this story, and felt that I was there, right in the middle of it all.
My thanks to Fran from Atlantic Books who sent my copy for review.
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston upon Thames.
For more information, visit her website www.elisabethgifford.com
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