Holly Oak is a Southern mansion with a rich, and troubled, history. It was once inhabited by Susannah Page, who was rumored to be a spy for the North during the Civil War. Some older ladies in the community think that Susannah haunts the house, and the women of Holly Oak do seem bent toward tragedy. Currently the house is inhabited by Adelaide, who is Susannah's great-granddaughter. When a new bride moves into the house, many of the family secrets come tumbling out of the woodwork.
I thought this book was, in a word, magnificent. I loved the concept of a house being haunted, not so much by specters, but instead by the ghost of regret. I think that redemption is a strong theme among many of the characters, and I like how each of the main female characters has her own distinct journey to take. I found the characters very well developed, and enjoyed learning each of their stories. It was fascinating to me to learn the history of the house and the inhabiting family, all the while seeing how the past influenced the present.
I quite enjoyed the setting as well. As a Yankee, I find myself enraptured by the thoughts of the Deep South and the old fashioned ways so often seen there. Whether the chapters were about the War, or about a modern day garden party, I found myself really engaged in the setting. The house itself is a character, and I love that the reader does not know whether or not the ghosts are real.
The only criticism is that so much of the latter part of the book occurs through correspondence between Susannah and her cousin. I found reading nothing but one side of the correspondence tedious after a point. But that is honestly my only critique. I think the book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, as well as Southern fiction.
I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.
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