Katherine Webb’s third novel is as enchanting and as deliciously written as her previous. A Half Forgotten Song tells the story of artist and struggling dad Zach, whose fascination with 20th century artist Charles Aubrey lead him to investigate the village of Blacknowle – where Aubrey spent his summers. His time on the Dorset coast leads him to The Watch, where an old and peculiar woman’s story is waiting to be revealed.
1930s Blacknowle. Meet Mitzy Hatcher: a young social outcast who leads a wild and sheltered life – until the arrival of the distinguished artistCharles Aubrey and his beautiful mistress and daughters, in the summer of 1937. During the family’s time spent in the village, Mitzy is taken in as one of their own and Aubrey adopts her as his new object to draw. Initially hesitant of such attention, Mitzy learns to love the Aubreys and, more significantly, Charles Aubrey.
Over the three summers that the Aubrey’s visit Blacknowle, Mitzy’s fixation, lust and visions of her future grow. Innocence turns into obsession – how far can infatuations and obsession push a person? Mitzy epitomises the grey areas of human behaviour – can good people do bad things? What are we really capable of, given certain circumstances and experiences?
Webb produces a story bursting with secrets and confusion – a story where reality and fantasy overlap. She highlights the concept of invented versions of events that become so deeply ingrained that they ultimately obscure the actual reality – a concept which everyone can relate to.
The novel is written cleverly and creates an ambience of mystery that grips the reader. The intertwining stories of Zach and Mitzy that inevitably meet are exciting, juicy, and heart-wrenching. What did happen in the last summer the Aubrey’s spent in Blacknowle? What is the strange and paranoid old Mitzy Hatcher hiding? Will Zach ever find out?
Webb’s writing is sophisticated, convincing and sensual – making it a linguistically pleasurable novel as well as providing a captivating plot. Webb has again produced an enchanting novel – one that comes with a definite recommendation from Leeds Student.
Words: Daniella McCarron