The Ruin of Delicate Things is a Gothic romp of a novel that combines the beauty of past masters into a meandering tale of grief, guilt, tragedy, retribution and healing of past wrongs.
Also what a title – it perfectly sums up this book, and what it does to you if you fall under its bewitching spell.
I’ve enjoyed some of Beverley Lee’s short fiction previously and I can testify now that her longer fiction is even more macabre and beautiful, it doesn’t take her long to cement the small town vibe with all of its hidden intricacies and unspoken secrets. We’re also offered the creeping unease of horror and what you expect from the Gothic in a matter of pages, Lee ensures that this is going to be one hell of a ride that will chill the very marrow in your bones.
The Ruin of Delicate Things is fully immersive and pulls at your heart strings, the work around grief in this book is truly masterful and it’s used to smother you in its cool and unforgiving embrace. And then the horror, which is sewn deftly into each paragraph will rock the reader to their very core, it’s a subtle horror that harks back to the brilliance of Shirley Jackson, a horror that leaves its mark on the reader long after you’ve finished reading.
As I’ve said comparisons can (and should) be made to Shirley Jackson with regards to the work Lee accomplishes so well with the sense of place – that being Barrington Hall. Barrington Hall is put across in so much detail, every line and brick and dark corner of that place is explored and given life. I’d go as far as to say that I enjoyed this offering more than I did ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ – there was more tension here than I found in those pages, and that is probably one of the biggest compliments I could bestow upon Lee and her magnificently horrifying story. I’d also say that the gothic elements of this are on par with Sarah Perry’s ‘Melmoth’ which in my opinion is one of the greatest Gothic horrors of recent times – The Ruin of Delicate Things is Gothic horror blended perfectly with dark fantasy, it’s an experience one won’t forget easily.
Touching on the Gothic horror and dark Fantasy now. The book is told in two parts, the first of which is a beautiful study on the Gothic, the sense of place, the tone of the horror that Lee weaves into the prose and the surrounding town, it is perfection. The second part of the book takes all the brilliance of the first part but ramps it up to eleven, it is full blown survival horror that bleeds into it elements of dark Fantasy, even a folklore vibe can be felt as we sense that the whole small town are aware of something that is not being said to these out-of-towners – a dark secret that they don’t want to or will not utter because of the consequences of those actions, instead the townsfolk remain aloof add a little bit odd and allow our protagonists to discover the horrors of this place all by themselves.
What took me back and made me stare in wide eyed amazement is Lee’s prose, it’s an utter delight, I’ve highlighted many chapters, some of her paragraph structures caused me to pause once I’d read it and read it again, not because it was confusing but because it was absolutely stunning, I just had to read it again and again to let it sink in, masterful stuff!
The character work and location work on show is a sheer masterclass, the locations (the town, woods, Barrington Hall) all become characters in their own right, adding an additional layer to the deep and beguiling story that Lee unravels before our eyes. Both of our main protagonists are wonderfully put across on the page, you can root for them, cry with them, hide in fear alongside them, cheer them on and you can’t help but become totally invested and enraptured with their plight and the horrors that come to pass.
The Ruin of Delicate Things showcases a writer who is at the top of her game, a stunning and haunting tale that will ruin you if you let it, pick up a copy now and see if you enjoy your time at Barrington Hall.
The Ruin of Delicate Things is available here.
Beverley Lee is the best selling author of The Gabriel Davenport Series (The Making of Gabriel Davenport/A Shining in the Shadows/The Purity of Crimson) and The Ruin of Delicate Things.
Currently residing in the south east of England, her inspiration is found in the quiet places where all the shadows dwell.
In thrall to the written word from an early age, especially the darker side of fiction, she believes that the very best story is the one you have to tell. Supporting fellow authors is also her passion and she is actively involved in social media writers’ groups.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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