Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient spiritual commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
When I read the blurb for The Lingering certain words just jumped out at me; witches, former psychiatric home, spiritual commune and suspicious villagers. I was totally drawn to it and with Halloween coming up I knew it would be the perfect read.
Gothic Rosalind House is a former mental hospital in the Fens. Although parts of Rosalind House are uninhabitable, a chap called Smeaton Dunsmore has created a self-sufficient community. This commune is not some Manson-esque type cult, more somewhere away from everyday life where people can get away from the worries of what is going on in the world, and where residents are encouraged to “embrace the light”. There is no internet, mobile phones, or any other technology, and going down to the village is discouraged too.
The story alternates mainly between Ali, who has just arrived at the commune with her boyfriend Jack, and Angela who is a long-term resident of Rosalind House. It’s quite clear from the off that Ali and Jack have a different type of relationship and that they are hiding something, relationship soaked in lies and deceit. Angela is a bit of an unusual one. She believes in the supernatural and getting in touch with the other side, and is determined to find proof that not only ghosts exist, but they are haunting the halls of Rosalind House, and that was her very reason for moving into the commune in the first place. Angela may be right, Rosalind House is rich in local stories of witchcraft and of cruel and unethical practices at the former asylum. When some sinister goings on begin to occur, that is when The Lingering, part Supernatural Thriller, part Domestic Noir, really kicks off.
The Lingering is narrated in alternating chapters between Ali’s point of view (in third person) and Angela’s point of view (in first). This is a clever writing ploy that becomes clear about halfway through the novel. Peppered throughout the story (in between Ali and Angela’s chapters) are diary entries written by a Dr Henry Baldock in the 1950’s. He was sent to the hospital to write a report on its practices. These were the chapters I enjoyed the most. We are all familiar with our shameful historical record on the treatment of mental health problems, and know that a disproportion of women were committed unjustly and The Lingering only highlights that. My only criticism would be that there was not enough of these diary entries, I would be happy to read book after book after book set in Psychiatric Institutions in the 50s.
The Lingering is a brilliant novel that has so many layers to it. There are twists and turns, and it is uncomfortable reading at times, but at its soul it’s a glimpse into the psychopathology of what makes us think and act the way we do and how easily, and unknowingly we can be coerced or manipulated. The Lingering ponders the age-old question; nature or nurture? A compelling and intense read, one which I was completely unable to put down. Rosalind House’s past, Ali and Jack’s relationship, Angela’s supernatural investigations, all come together to make this a really solid conclusion. I love what the author has achieved here, how she tied up all the different threads so neatly in a bow. The dark and dull afternoons of winter are the perfect time to be curled up with a hot drink and this chilling story.
Check out what other bloggers are saying below