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The Lake House At Lenashee by Sheila Forsey

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

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The Lake House At Lenashee by Sheila Forsey is published with Poolbeg Books. The Sunday Independent recently described it as ‘a Gothic-style tale with an Irish twist…escapism at its best’. Set primarily in a small town in Co. Clare in the West of Ireland, the reader is transported back to a different Ireland, when the city and rural divide was more obvious and when the Catholic church had a greater influence over society.

Moira Fitzpatrick is a renowned teacher and food writer living in Paris for over fifty years. She is a champion of French cuisine, having developed a passion for the French way of cooking many years previously. She followed her dreams, leaving Ireland and developing her cooking skills, learning the trade and now recognised as a sensation in her field. But Moira has never darkened the green grass of her home since she upped sticks in 1967. There is a shadow that has remained in her heart ‘a memory of a house that had insisted on coming back – always when she was least expecting it. A house overlooking a silver lake where the events of one night in the summer of 1967 would be replayed like a kaleidoscope in the recesses of her mind for decades – haunting her nights. No amount of sleeping pills or bourbon could ever seem to still it.’

Moira receives an unexpected jolt when she is contacted by a researcher in relation to Rosemary Purcell, a name she will never forget, but also one that she doesn’t want to be reminded of. She casts her mind back to 1967 when she was a chef at a local hotel back in Ireland. She was given an extra job of catering for Harry Williams, the new owner of Lenashee House, the lakeside estate near her home. The Williams family were coming to stay for a break away from city living and Moira’s job was to cater for their culinary appetites. Moira was excited, anxious and fascinated at the role ahead but what Moira wasn’t to know then was that her life was about to change that summer in ways she could never have possibly imagined.

Harry Williams and his wife Ida were very much the centre of the social scene in Dublin in the late 1960s. Not a day went by when they didn’t feature in a magazine or a newspaper. Everyone knew them and everyone wanted to be seen with them. Rosemary Purcell worked in Brown Thomas, a luxury department store in Dublin. Rosemary was known for her elegant touch and her eye for fashion, making her a favourite stylist among the socialites who came to Brown Thomas for their fashion fix. Ida Williams, in particular, always looked for Rosemary when in store and a friendship of sorts developed between the two women. When Ida mentioned an upcoming trip to Lenashee House, with the possibility of a fashion shoot, she persuaded Rosemary to accompany her there. Also present would be her brother Desmond Griffith with his wife and children.

Meanwhile, back to the present, and Desmond Griffith is on his deathbed. His mind has deteriorated but he mentions the name Rosemary, one unfamiliar to his daughter Julia. Initially thought to be the ramblings of a dying man, no great attention is given to the name but something stirs within Julia and she starts to research any Rosemary in her father’s past. Julia unearths some very unexpected results, soon finding herself clambering down a rabbit-hole that is full of some very shocking discoveries.

Sheila Forsey creates a striking atmospheric setting that resulted in the occasional goosebump moment as I turned the pages. There were a couple of areas within the novel that I felt could have been a little bit tighter as I was left a touch perplexed, but overall I really did enjoy losing myself in this secretive story.

The Lake House at Lenashee is a tale of mystery set in a house full of intrigue, with a supernatural element running through it. In an article in The Irish Times in 2020 Sheila Forsey said – ‘I am fascinated by old crumbling houses especially houses that are locked up and forgotten. I love to interweave the past with the present through untold secrets and a mystery that is left unsolved.’ This fascination shines brightly in Sheila Forsey’s writing with the reader being taken on a compelling journey behind the walls of Lenashee. What secrets is the estate hiding? What historical event set tongues wagging and kept the locals away ever since?

An absorbing tale, with the addition of some mouth-watering menus, The Lake House at Lenashee is a ghostly and captivating escape for all readers.

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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