In England, after World War I, many English towns and villages had lost nearly all their young men, and were left with invalids, the elderly and the boys. The village of Easton Deadall is no different, and is the setting for Elizabeth Speller’s latest novelÂ The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton. For the most part, the villages and towns gradually returned to life with war veterans and young boys returning to farming and village life, desperate to reclaim humanity taken from them by war. But what makes Easton Deadall different, is that the remaining Easton family members seem to be deliberately keeping Easton Deadall stagnant, not allowing for regrowth and change. The anchor holding them is Kitty Easton and her strange disappearance from her bed over 10 years before the novel’s opening.
Returned soldier and sometime schoolteacher, Laurence Bartram is called to Easton Deadall to look at their historic church and in so doing, finds more secrets than he expected. He is not entirely surprised by the discovery of a complex mosaic floor underneath the church’s renovated floor covering, nor the historic carvings that adorn the interior of the church. But he is intrigued by the tale of Kitty’s disappearance, and when another girl goes missing from the estate he can’t help but get involved and to compare the disappearance with Kitty’s, 10 years earlier. Once he starts digging, he reveals many more secrets buried under the church by former – and current – generations of Eastons.
Elizabeth Speller’s novel is abundant in detail, drawing you in to the sensation of life returning to villages that were almost emptied of their manpower by war. The backdrop of village life is in gentle contrast to the mysteries surrounding the Easton family. Through the eyes of Laurence, the outsider, we see the family come to terms with their secrets and finally, to reconcile the past with the future, allowing Kitty’s memory to rest. And by helping the Eastons return to life, Laurence himself realises that life means change, and he too has to move on from the past.
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