Friday 7 November 2014

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray

There is a boy out there, and he's wearing a silver collar .....
Easter 1955 and Britain waits for a hanging. Dieter Sugar finds a strange boy in the red gardens at crumbling Sugar Hall - a boy unlike any he's ever seen.
As Dieter's mother, Lilia, scrapes the mould and moths from the walls of the great house, she knows there are pasts that cannot be so easily removed. Sugar Hall has a history, buried, but not forgotten. 
Based on the stories of the slave Boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray. 

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray was published by Seren Books in paperback on 25 September 2014.

Liliana Sugar and her two children; Saskia and Dieter have moved into Sugar Hall. The hall is old, and crumbling, it's cold and full of strange objects and dark rooms, there are rats and damp. Sugar Hall is a shock for all of them, they are used to their cheery little flat in London, surrounded by friends and noise and bright lights. Liliana is a widow and her children are fatherless, the locals are curious about this German sounding woman and her two very different children. Only Juniper and John really make them welcome.

Dieter meets a small boy in the garden and it is this meeting that will change the life course of each member of this small family. This is not ordinary little boy, this is a boy with a past, with grudges, with anger, with a score to settle.

Tiffany Murray has a unique and intriguing way with words. Sugar Hall is most certainly a ghost story, but it is also a tale of long-gone slavery and sugar plantations, with hints of murder and scandal. At times the complex plot can become overwhelming in its intricacy, yet this does not take away anything from story at all. There is a sense of unease and impending disaster that hangs over each page which only urges the reader to read on, faster and with an urgency until they reach the quite shocking and somewhat unexpected ending.

Sugar Hall is a book that left me with some unanswered questions, yet the more I think about the story, the more I think that I understand. This is one of the beauties of the story; the ability of the author to create a multi-layered mystery that can be both confusing and satisfying, yet never frustrating.

My thanks to Sarah at Seren Books who sent my copy for review.

Tiffany Murray grew up in haunted houses in Scotland, Wales and Herefordshire. Her novels Diamond Star Halo and Happy Accidents were shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the London Book Award, and Diamond Star Hale was a Guardian book of the year. Her work has drawn comparisons to Stella Gibbons and Dodie Smith.

Tiffany has been a Hay Festival International Writing Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar, and her academic posts have included Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of South Wales.

Follow her on Twitter @tiffanymurray

SEREN is an independent publisher with a wide-ranging list which includes poetry, fiction, biography, art, translation, criticism and history. Many of their books and authors have been on longlists and shortlists for - or won - major literary prizes, among them The Costa Award, the Man Booker, the Desmond Elliott Prize, The Writer's Guild Award, Forward Prize, and TS Eliot Prize.       Twitter @SerenBooks     Seren Books on Facebook