The Legacy of Foulstone Manor, by J.C.Briggs

Ella Beales

A story of manipulation and madness, ghosts and the Gothic.
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The Legacy of Foulstone Manor is a dual timeline Gothic mystery that explores family secrets, lies, and how the past can haunt and trap you. In 1970, we encounter forty-something-year-old Joan, who has inherited Foulstone, the family home she was taken away from at the age of three when she was adopted. Whilst she remembers little of her childhood at Foulstone, Joan feels unsettled by the house, and chooses instead to live in a cottage nearby. Becoming increasingly reclusive and paranoid, Joan’s life changes forever when her goddaughter Amanda visits, forcing her to confront her past and the secrets that seem to lie just out of reach, taunting and haunting her. As Joan and Amanda dig deeper into the secrets hidden at Foulstone Manor, they uncover the diary of Helena, Joan’s birth mother. Meanwhile, in the 1920s we witness Helena’s increasingly concerning relationship with Joan’s father in the house she has been told to call home.

J.C. Briggs writes beautifully descriptive pastoral scenes, bringing to life the landscapes and buildings that Joan, Amanda and Helena encounter. Briggs is particularly clever in the way her narrative style reflects the characters she is writing about: both Joan and Helena’s perspectives lovingly (and longingly) focus on the peaceful openness of the nature that surrounds them, reflecting their desire for freedom, whilst their descriptions of Foulstone Manor are largely centred around decay and entrapment. Meanwhile, Amanda’s perspective initially focuses on describing buildings and documents, reflecting her fascination with history and her desire for information. Amanda acts as a catalyst to show readers an appreciation of archives, libraries and historical research. Briggs’ atmospheric narrative style is further enhanced through her clever use of the senses as a means of connecting readers to the protagonists, and invoking menacing memories. This is most evident in her intriguing use of smell as a lingering, sinister reminder of secrets and suffering.

Much of The Legacy of Foulstone Manor is centred around the enduring impact of war, both for those who fought and those who lost loved ones or were left behind. Briggs cleverly references First World War poetry, as well as other literary texts, to evoke the horrors of war. Whilst this novel is undoubtedly about war, suffering, ghosts and the Gothic, it is arguably more about ‘living ghosts’ than anything else. This is particularly apparent with Gerard, whose traumatic memories of war shape all his future decisions, and with Joan, whose lack of knowledge of her past has impacted all aspects of her life: her lack of identity has resulted in her living a static life, fearful of change. Her blossoming friendship with Amanda helps her find the courage to accept her past, ultimately allowing her the opportunity to accept herself so that she no longer lives in the shadows of her family’s secrets.

The Legacy of Foulstone Manor is a story of manipulation and madness, ghosts and the Gothic. But ultimately, it is a story of courage, self-acceptance, friendship, hope and learning to let go.

The Legacy of Foulstone Manor by J.C.Briggs is out now.