Five-Star Book, March 11, 2014 By Janet This review is from: Deep As Bone (Kindle Edition)
I'm rather mean with my five star reviews but when a book like this comes along, it makes sense of why!
Outstanding prose, complex plot beautifully executed with a believable cast of characters, Deep as Bone is classed as a literary thriller
and for me, it is most worthy of that title.
Why does Amy Henshaw scream in the night?
What has happened to Aunt Clare, why has she just disappeared?
Ilsa arrives from South Africa to be the latest child-minder for the Henshaws, quickly discovering that she is the next in line in a long
trail of failed nannies, and with an employer like the highly-strung Mrs Henshaw, who could blame them? Clearly, something is not
quite right in the middle-class household, despite Mr Henshaw providing a handsome distraction in the rose garden.
Ilsa finds herself on something of a personal discovery too, as the present drama reflects experiences from her own bitter-sweet childhood.
The story weaves effortlessly between the present and all manner of underhand complications from the past.
Wonderfully evocative scene setting, of both an English summer and a childhood in South Africa. The tension was sublime, and the
build to the final scenes chilling, gripping, indeed all the expectations of a thriller... and yet, everything was beautifully understated,
driven by the clever nuance of a look, a small discovery, a character flaw. That to me, is outstanding writing.
A cleverly crafted and beautifully written jigsaw puzzle, July 28, 2014 By Lesley Hayes
This review is from: Deep As Bone (Kindle Edition)
In the very first sentence: “The girl made him uneasy...” Malla Duncan sets the scene for the whole of her novel, ‘Deep as Bone’.
Who exactly is this girl? We spend the rest of the book discovering the answer to this conundrum. The book is a cleverly crafted and
beautifully written jigsaw puzzle of clues that eventually fit together in the way that most gratifies a reader – it is so satisfying to feel you
have solved the riddle single-handedly without any unduly obvious interference from the writer! Anyone who enjoys the music of language
will delight in the way her narrative flows. Malla Duncan is an expert at imagery, bringing vividly alive both the backdrop of deceptively
peaceful rural England and that of the sheep farm in the Karoo, where the novel’s narrator, Ilse, was born. This desert in South Africa
she eloquently describes as a place where “time is a component of the landscape, branded in stone, sculpted by the wind...”
Time is a significant factor in the book – throughout it we are taken back into teasing glimpses of Ilse’s enigmatic past, which strangely
mirror events that transpire in the present. We are given hints about a tragedy – a back story that unfolds in parallel with a more recent
secret history within the family Ilse has become involved with. Ilse is a complex, intriguing character, and we see everything through
her eyes – but can we entirely trust her take on things? I found myself at times suspicious of each of the major characters – all of whom
are skilfully drawn. There is death at the dark heart of the story – as we continue to read we realise increasingly that the 5 year old child,
Amy is haunted and disturbed with good reason. She has been the unwilling witness to something traumatic that happened before she
had the language to describe it, and its horror wakes her every time her missing aunt Clare is mentioned. Ilse, who has arrived to take
on the job as Amy’s governess, seems to be the only adult who really understands her and relates to her – seeing reflected in this
troubled child her own distressing, lonely childhood. We feel sympathy for them both as Ilse sets out to find the cause for Amy’s nightmares.
What is it she has seen? What does she know? Like me, you will read on with increasing fascination as the story takes you on a journey
into Ilse’s mind as well as following her quest to dig deep enough to find the truth. To the very end, you will remain uncertain as to how
things will turn out. And the revelatory denouement will finally make sense of the chilling beginning as the last few pieces fall into place.
When I began reading ‘Deep as Bone’ I recognised elements of Gothic fiction, and was reminded of Jane Eyre – the dark mansion, the
house of secrets, the handsome husband who has lost one wife and is in thrall to her successor, the coldly resentful Melissa. But as I
continued reading I found that this was not fiction that belonged to any particular genre, nor does it need to. It is literary psychological
fiction at its best, worth every one of the 5 stars I have given it. I will be reading more of Malla Duncan’s novels, all of which can be
found on Kindle at Amazon.