by Sarah Dunnakey.
This book is a picture painted with words, incorporating some of the most beautifully descriptive writing I’ve ever read.
The story flows in two parts: in 1932, 11-year-old Billy Shaw is sent to live with the wayward Jasper Harper, together with Jasper’s mother and uncle, up on the windswept moor above Billy’s beloved Ackerdean Mill – the entertainment palace where he grew up; in the present day, Anna Sallis is the recently appointed custodian of the Ackerdean Mill archive, where her job is to organise the decades-old records into some semblance of order. As Billy’s story unfolds, so does Anna’s discovery of the story behind a double suicide, and the truth behind the very many secrets – both past and present – that have long overshadowed the valley.
There was nothing about this book I didn’t like – the story kept pulling me back, despite all the other things I was supposed to be doing. Sarah Dunnakey writes with a prose that slaps the wind against your face, and litters your ears with the cries of curlews.
As an aside, the author’s description of Ackerdean Mill and its environs instantly brought to mind a former mill, now owned by the National Trust, that I visited a few years ago. On reading the notes at the end of the book, I discovered this was the very place Dunnakey used for inspiration. Her descriptions are that good.