The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox #BookReview @orionbooks @essiefox

About this book…

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.

Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect.

But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.

My review…

This is the first book I have read by Essie Fox and have to admit that I didn’t even properly read the blurb when I requested it because I just wanted to possess that beautiful cover! It is so incredibly enticing and evocative of the books period setting that I fell in love and totally judged a book by its cover!

Now anyone who knows me also knows I am a HUGE film buff. I was brought up to love old black and white films whilst watching them with my grandparents and am obsessed by the old silent films from the golden age of Hollywood. It was a time before this “celebrity culture” we live in now, where the stars of the silver screen were true glamour icons. And even now they have maintained a certain mystical quality not seen since. They, like me and that cover, were also judged by the way they looked and many lost that mystique once talkies came along and people heard their voices. But those silent stars have always remained fascinating especially to me (the Clara Bow lips as a teenager were not a particularly great success though!)

This story is mainly set in 1976 when a young reporter Ed Peters comes across a shop selling old movie memorabilia, amongst other things, and goes inside to purchase a Bette Davies photo, a favourite actress of his recently deceased mother. Once inside he meets Theo and also discovers photos of a beautiful silent film star who had only made 3 films before disappearing from that world. Theo turns out to be the brother of that enigmatic actress who’s screen name was Leda Grey and who lives locally, rarely venturing from her home. Ed goes up to the house with the intention of interviewing a woman he has developed a sudden and strange fascination with and ends up spending days talking to Leda about her past life and sinking deeper under her spell.

This book drew me in and weaved its magic within the first few pages, once I’d got used to the authors rather unique writing style. It was a spine tingling tale that delivered a real sense of time and place with a darkly atmospheric undertone. I just loved the gothic feel and how White Cliff House, with its lack of electricity and phone line, was practically a character in itself! I also found Ed’s fascination with Leda to be totally plausible as there have been cases well documented of younger men being captivated by beautiful older film stars. Leda herself was an unconventional, almost mythical figure, with her eccentric personality. I especially loved the way that mirrors dominated her flashbacks as again they encouraged us to think that maybe things were not being reflected truthfully.

This was definitely an eye opener for me and I am very keen now to read other books by Essie Fox to see how they compare to this one. She certainly has me intrigued-rather like the enigmatic Leda Grey! Her love of cinematography and the film industry comes across very strongly here and any examples of classic films used show a deep affection and knowledge of them. So, for once in my life, judging a book by its cover had worked out rather well for me!

Many thanks to the publisher Orion for my review copy of The Last Days of Leda Grey.

The Last Days of Leda Grey is published by Orion on November 3rd 2016 and is available to purchase from Amazon UK here.

About the author…

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Essie Fox has written three Gothic Victorian novels published by Orion Books. They are: The Somnambulist, Elijah’s Mermaid, and The Goddess and the Thief.

In November 2016 Orion will also be publishing The Last Days of Leda Grey, an eerily mysterious novel in which an old woman who lives alone in a decaying cliff top house remembers her youth in silent films – and the dangerous obsessions that led to her being abandoned for more than half a century.

Essie Fox was born and raised in Herefordshire. After studying English Literature at Sheffield University she came to work in London, first for the Telegraph Sunday Magazine and then for the book publishers, George, Allen & Unwin. A change of career then came about when Essie became a commercial designer – a passion that lasted twenty years until she began to write instead.

Essie now divides her time between Bow in East London, and Windsor. She is also a regular visitor to her childhood home of Herefordshire.

For more information: http://www.essiefox.co.uk/

To read Essie’s popular Victorian blog: http://www.virtualvictorian.blogspot.com

See many of the images that have inspired Essie’s novels on her Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/essiefoxauthor/

Published by

jorobertson2015

I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.

7 thoughts on “The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox #BookReview @orionbooks @essiefox”

  1. Love the sound of this one, Jo – have you read Cathrynne M. Valente’s ‘Radiance’ which is set in an alternate universe all around films? It’s a fascinating, funky read that I can guarantee will be unlike anything else you’ll have experienced…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first thing that popped into my head reading this was Sunset Boulevard though I’m sure it’s nothing like it it’s the imagery. I love old films too so think I would enjoy this.

    Liked by 1 person

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