Written by Sarah Stovell
Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long
I first saw Mothernight on the Snowbooks website, read a bit about it, thought that sounds good. After Needle in the Blood, by Sarah Bower--also published by Snowbooks--and knowing this company produces good stuff, I sent a "pretty please" begging letter, and lo and behold a copy arrived on my desk at work last week, I carted it home, and sat down on Saturday and read straight through.
Seventeen year old Leila Hartley is a boarder at an exclusive girl's school. She hasn't been home to see her family in years.....she keeps everyone, teachers and pupils alike at a distance. A new girl, Olivia Rudham arrives and the two become room mates and then best friends.....When Leila is invited by her father to spend the summer with him for the first time in almost a decade, Olivia goes with her and meets Katherina, Leilas's stepmother who blames her for something that happened to her first child. Somewhere in the farmhouse is the truth about what took place....on the winter solstice know in Norse mythology as Mothernight.Now if that blurb, plus the Edmund du Lac style cover doesn't make you lick your lips with anticipation then I don't know what will. It grabbed my attention, I can tell you. Olivia and Leila form an intense relationship, and the story is told from their separate perspectives with them both taking turns in the narrative so that we are privy to both their feelings and fears. I always like this device in a book as it adds depth and fleshes out the characters.
Leila's stepmother blames her for the death of her son, Archie who was found one morning lifeless in his cot and sends her away to school and out of the house. We are given tantalising glimpses of the time this occurred and hints and clues as to the actual events. It is real page turning stuff. The reader knows there is something lurking on the edge of the darkness, something nasty and unpleasant, you want to know what it is and then you don't and you want to read on and find out, but are you really sure you want to?
Set in the country in a long, hot sweltering summer with languid drawn out days in the heat and temperatures and antagonisms rising to a crescendo and the denouement, Mothernight will keep you riveted until you reach the final page. And whether Leila is innocent or guilty, she arouses our pity because of her longing for a normal life, to be loved and to be rid of the loneliness and burden she carries with her in everything she says or does.
Snowbooks has done it again, found another new author with a great first novel. I thought it was pretty damn good, and I urge you to get hold of a copy and read.