‘A ghostly tale about love, loss and forgiveness with an instant classic feel.’
‘Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly's unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery.’
Matilda (Tilly) is a poor village girl living with her mother and sister; the feckless father has disappeared. One day Tilly dares Will the butcher’s son, to skate on the lake at Frost Hollow Hall, a forbidding place patrolled by dogs and keepers. While skating she falls through thin ice, is trapped under water and would have died but for a strange rescue. ‘An angel’, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen, pulls her to safety. Later she’s convinced it was Kit Barrington of Frost Hollow Hall, who drowned in that same lake when he was fifteen. She starts dreaming about Kit and believes he wants her to help release his spirit.
The Hall is a gloomy place, full of grief and the memory of Kit. Tilly gets a job there, where she finds another spirit at work, a spiteful one, not like sweet Kit. She gets tired of this: ‘I didn’t ask to be part of some dark business, where dead people were haunting my dreams.’ The story of the haunted house and Lady Barrington’s obsession with her dead son is scary in just the right sort of way for a children’s book. With the help of reliable, faithful Will, Tilly does manage to find out the truth about the terrible past events and to reconcile the various inhabitants of the house.
I enjoyed this, but I do have some niggles about historical accuracy. The book opens with a newspaper account of Kit’s death in 1871 in which ‘Lord Barrington is said to be devastated’ I don’t think people were devastated in 1871; it’s a modern cliché. Nor would Tilly have said, ‘I’ve blown it, I thought. That’s it. I’m done for.’ I was also bothered throughout the book by the ‘drapes’. Curtains are what we have in England. There wouldn’t have been a ‘little black stamp’ on a letter in 1881; by that time it would have been red. What are editors for? Frost Hollow Hall is still an engrossing read for a child who enjoys a little shiver down the spine.
I read this book courtesy of NetGalley. It will be published by Faber & Faber on 3rd October. ISBN 9780571295449