Lucy Strange’s mesmerising new novel will draw readers deep into its dream-like landscape until they emerge at the end, feeling as though they too have just escaped from the mires of the Lost Marsh. It tells the story of the Fernsby girls, six motherless sisters, who lead a harsh life on a marshland farm, living in fear of their selfish, heartless father who is ruled by superstition and obsessed with ‘The Curse of the Six Daughters.’ When Grace, the eldest, is promised in marriage to a rich, unkind landowner by her father in exchange for a horse, she cannot bear the prospect and vanishes, soon after visiting a magical puppet show at the mysterious Full Moon Fayre. Willa, the headstrong, defiant middle sister, sets off on the brave horse Flint to find Grace. Her journey takes her into the dangerous Lost Marsh where will-o’-the-wisps lure lost souls into the dark waters of the mire. Willa encounters danger, kindness, disease, and death. She unravels family secrets, battles the sinister Marsh King, brings Grace home and solves the mystery of her own deep loneliness. The poignant resolution mingles loss, triumph, and the breaking of the curse.
Lucy Strange has written a beautiful, haunting novel, an eerie and luminous mix of gothic mystery, folklore and fairy tale inspired by the landscape of Romney Marsh. This isolated setting of mist, salt marsh, ditches and lost villages is brilliantly and atmospherically evoked. The characters are vivid, Willa’s narrative voice is compelling, and the story is moving and empowering, ending with the family reunited, even after loss, held firm by their mantra ‘we won’t be druv.’ The sense of time shifting and merging after the defeat of the Marsh King is beautifully depicted as the girls feel the strength and power of the beloved women they have lost ‘in the bones of us’. A haunting, magical read, highly recommended.