I have had such a good run of reading marvellous books recently and this one is no exception. Again, as is usually the case these days, I had seen The Haunting Of Henry Twist talked about on booktube. I’d seen people ‘haul’ it but have so far not seen or heard any reviews.
I picked this up with only a very loose idea of the premise which is quite often how I like to approach my reading. So what’s it all about?..
Well, we’re in 1920’s London with Henry Twist who’s pregnant wife Ruby gets knocked down and killed by a double decker bus (not a spoiler as this happens within the first chapter). The baby, a girl who Henry names Libby is saved and Henry is left as a single parent.
On the day of Ruby’s funeral a strange but charismatic man named Jack Turner appears outside Henry’s flat and seems to know who Henry is without them never having met.
‘There is a stillness to this man which appears to run right to his middle. Even when he moves, he does so leisurely, as if he has just woken and the lethargy of sleep has not yet worn off. His failure to recall his own identity does not seem to trouble him.
“How do you know my name?” Henry asks.
“I don’t know”.
They stand, the width of the road apart, and as Jack pushes his hands into his pockets and takes a couple of languid paces back and forth, looking up at the house and frowning again, Henry feels a flicker of recognition. Was jack already here when Matilda and Grayson brought him home?….’
We then follow the two men’s story and their complicated developing relationship after this meeting. Surrounding this central story are some very vibrant characters. Grayson and Matilda, close friends of Henry and Ruby’s. ‘Monty’ Montague Thornton-Wells with his garden parties held for the Bright Young Things of the time, and of course Henry and Jack themselves.
Each character is exquisitely written and we are even given a real sense of the kind of woman Ruby was before her demise in the form of little flashback stories told through Henry’s memories.
This whole story is set in the roaring twenties and is so vivid and vibrant, it really draws you in. It does however deal with some difficult subjects, death, grief, loss, lonliness and post war trauma. Difficult relationships, marriages and friendships. Ultimately at the heart of it all is love, of all kinds, between all people. Even if that love is a painful one. There are so many heartbreaking moments but also a lot of uplifting moments that get you right in the heart!
The writing style is very atmospheric and at the times almost lyrical. I found myself invested in each and every character even if at first glance they were not all entirely likeable. The descriptions of the late night parties in Monty’s garden were almost ethereal, dancing and drinking and having fun until everyone crashed lazily on the lawn to see another dawn break over london before the city had a chance to fully wake up.
This story is beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure and I adored it. A definite 5 star read .