This eerie novel is based on true events that took place on the north coast of Ireland back in 1892, and the plot is what you would definitely call, “an acquired taste.”
The two main characters of this haunting piece of fiction is a former nanny by the name of Maddie McGlade, and her boss - a wealthy, evil, aristocratic woman named Harriet Ormond.
As we begin our story Maddie is now in her nineties, and she finds herself back inside the Ormond castle. The same structure that Maddie walked into when she was just fourteen-years-old to work, is now the Oranmore Nursing Home. Maddie’s time on earth is slowly coming to an end when she receives a letter from the last of her charges which ‘sparks’ the need to uncover the long kept ‘Ormond’ family secrets that have weighed her down for decades. She tells the story of the Butterfly Cabinet - an object she received that once belonged to her employer, Harriet, and held a diary that was kept by her old mistress while she sat in prison for murder.
Readers are shown a family that had it all - wealth, connections…everything. Harriet and Edward Ormond had an almost obsessive relationship as man and wife. Having eight children in total, the sixth child, Charlotte, was the only girl. And for some reason, perhaps because Charlotte had a strength and powerful attitude that her brothers did not possess, Harriet was almost tyrannical towards her daughter.
Maddie remembers the times when she would hear cries in the night as one of the children was locked inside a wardrobe; or, the ‘thumps’ resounding from another hall where Harriet was making sure that her victim’s head was smacked repeatedly against the stairs in order to teach that child a lesson. One evening, Charlotte goes from being an abused child to a murder victim, and her mother is taken away and placed into Grangegorman Prison.
The story that unfolds is told from both women’s POV’s and, frankly, the reader will be so disgusted by Harriet that they’ll find themselves angry that this is a woman who not only received a sentence of just one year for murdering her own child, but also because she was pregnant with her ninth - another poor creature to be raised by the hands of a monster.
The author has certainly put together an extremely well-written novel, seeing that the characters are so real readers will be absolutely sickened by Harriet.
Quill Says: Again, this is an acquired taste. The writing is well-done, but the plot is not one that is easy to recommend.