In Katherine Webb’s new novel, A Half Forgotten Song, past meets present in a small English village, where secrets are well-kept even while gossip abounds.
Zach is a gallery owner whose daughter is being shipped off to America to live with his ex-wife. Following an obsession with the artist Charles Aubrey, he leaves town and heads to the coastal village in Dorset where Aubrey spent his summers before his death, in search of the mysterious subject of Aubrey’s drawings that have recently been sold at auction. While there he instead finds Dimity, aka Mitzy, one of Aubrey’s girls, still alive and seemingly stuck in a confused state about the past and the present.
Zach slowly draws out Mitzy’s story of meeting Aubrey as a young girl, when she initially builds a friendship with his daughter Celeste, but mistakes Aubrey’s interest in her as a subject for his drawings as his being in love with her. Mitzy’s dreams of leaving her mother, who provides herbal remedies to the townspeople when she’s not entertaining the men of the village, along with her infatuation with Aubrey can only lead to disaster.
During his time in Blacknowle, Zach also becomes acquainted with Hannah, a sheep farmer who lost her husband at sea and has been unable to move forward. They embark on an affair that is initially only physical but soon moves to be something more. But Hannah has secrets of her own and Zach is reluctant to get too close.
A Half Forgotten Song has romance, mystery and some pretty big twists, and a great seaside setting. This is a great summer read and I recommend it.