It is 1933 and Alice Eveleigh finds herself unmarried and pregnant. Her mother calls upon an old school friend who is working at Fiercombe Manor to accommodate Alice until her baby is born. When Alice arrives, she finds herself drawn to the history of Fiercombe Manor and begins to explore the lives of Elizabeth Stanton, her husband Edward and daughter Isabel. But as she delves deeper, she notices the similarities between their stories. Can Alice stop her life from mirroring Elizabeth's?
As you can see from the cover of the edition of the book that I read, The Girl In The Photograph has been compared to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. As soon as I started to read, I could see why these comparisons have been made, and I was immediately drawn in by Riordan's descriptions of Fiercombe Manor and the surrounding areas. I enjoyed the way that Riordan introduces the reader to the secrets in the Manor, and this creates a wonderfully tense and intriguing atmosphere.
The Girl In The Photograph has two separate narrative strands: the story of Alice, narrated in first person in 1933, and the story of Elizabeth, narrated in third person in 1898. The alternating narratives allow Riordan to build tension, as the reader often learns about events that took place in Elizabeth's life before Alice discovers them. This made me eager to discover Elizabeth's fate. Although the reader finds out more about Elizabeth from the diaries that Alice reads, and Alice's conversations with the Fiercombe Manor staff, I sometimes felt disappointed that the chapters relating to Elizabeth were much shorter than those relating to Alice. As such, I often found myself wanting to know more about Elizabeth, and felt that the gap between each chapter was too long, and this caused the novel to lose momentum in places.
In 1933, it was frowned upon for women to give birth outside of wedlock, and this is demonstrated in Alice's mother's reaction to her pregnancy. As such, for her time, Alice is a feisty character, and this helped me to feel her emotions and wish for a positive outcome for her, particularly as the plot progressed.
The Girl In The Photograph touches upon the theme of puerperal insanity; what is now known as postpartum psychosis. I was interested to learn how people responded to the illness and how it was treated in the period about which Riordan is writing, which she has researched very well. As attitudes to mental illness were so different at that time, I felt very sympathetic towards Elizabeth, and wanted to discover how her story ended.
The Girl In The Photograph is available from Amazon.