Author: Kathy George
Published: February 3rd 2021
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Gothic
Rating: 5 stars
An empty house, a lonely shore, an enigmatic, brooding man-child waiting for her return … a trip to the dark lands of Australian Gothic, for readers of Kate Morton and Hannah Richell.
Last night I dreamt I went to Sargasso again …
As a child, Hannah lived at Sargasso, the isolated beachside home designed by her father, a brilliant architect. A lonely, introverted child, she wanted no company but that of Flint, the enigmatic boy who no one else ever saw … and who promised he would always look after her.
Hannah’s idyllic childhood at Sargasso ended in tragedy, but now as an adult she is back to renovate the house, which she has inherited from her grandmother. Her boyfriend Tristan visits regularly but then, amid a series of uncanny incidents, Flint reappears … and as his possessiveness grows, Hannah’s hold on the world begins to lapse. What is real and what is imaginary, or from beyond the grave?
A mesmerising Australian novel that echoes the great Gothic stories of love and hate: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and especially Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
‘And this evening after dinner, I thought I smelt the sea. I thought I smelt Sargasso, too, in the ashes blowing towards me.’
In the tradition of great gothic novels of the past such as Rebecca and Jane Eyre, comes the startling new Australian based gothic tale, Sargasso. A harbinger of something that rests between reality and imagination, this soulful novel strikes a strong chord, with its rich air of possibility. I embraced this novel so much that I would dearly love to give Sargasso more than the standard five out of five star rating.
Sargasso unveils the story of Hannah, firstly as a girl living in the clifftop abode of Sargasso, through to Hannah’s return to her old seaside home as an adult. As a child Hannah is largely misunderstood by her family and community, which leads Hannah to seek out the company of a mysterious boy named Flint. Flint remains Hannah’s little secret as she navigates impending adulthood. But when tragedy strikes at Sargasso, Hannah moves away from Sargasso and doesn’t return until many years later. Now that Hannah’s grandmother has passed on, this alluring coastal property now belongs to Hannah. But as Hannah grapples with her present-day relationship with her partner Tristan, Flint makes a reappearance in her life, stirring up plenty of mixed emotions. As the past, present and future collide, Hannah must determine what is reality in this murky gothic family mystery tale.
I cannot deny my love of the gothic mystery genre. As it is my favourite subject category, I am always on the hunt for new titles on offer to satisfy my reading tastes. Thankfully, Kathy George’s new Australian contribution to this genre was calling my name and I am so grateful to have discovered the writing of this talented author. I have the feeling that Sargasso will stay by my side for a long time to come. Although we have only just made it through the first month of 2021, I am confident that Sargasso will be one of my books of the year. Possibly of all time!
I am sure you are scratching your head and wondering why I am attaching so much praise to this novel! If you are a close reader of gothic fiction, you will know that there are certain key ingredients that are needed to conjure a successful novel of this inclination. With a strong sense of foreboding, plenty of conjecture, standout characters, a site that takes on a life of its own, a dangerous backdrop and a past mystery to unlock, Sargasso has it all down pat. It took only a small amount of time for me to settle into the gentle waves of this novel and I was committed for the duration. I found myself in quite a quandary while reading Sargasso. I found that I was both turning the pages in anticipation to get to the heart of the mystery, but also savouring this truly magnificent novel for as long as I could. It was a blessing to be able to remove myself from reality while I was attached to this book, it certainly was a very a special read.
Structured in the form of a ‘then’ past narrative and a ‘now’ present day accompanying narrative, the reader drifts effortlessly through the lead character Hannah’s life at Sargasso. The reader follows Hannah’s life closely as a misunderstood child, through to a confused adult. The transitions between the two different timeframes were absolutely seamless and I never encountered any clunky moments. Each movement from the past to present is fluid, taking the reader from one destination to the next. I enjoyed playing the keen eyed onlooker in both past and present segments, each was just as enthralling as the other.
Character is a strong point in Sargasso and the leads are all carefully defined. George carries her rich character focus across both time frames, so there is a high amount of consistently to this protagonist set. I developed a good feel for the innermost thoughts and feelings of Hannah and the remaining cast members. Flint is always surrounded by an air of mystery and ambiguity, but I loved this element to Flint’s character, it complimented the tone of the book. George does toy with her characters and we are presented with plenty of emotion, heart, confusion and drama. George also takes a line of fantasy in Sargasso and this transcendental focus in regards to the major plot twist may divide some readers. For me it was just perfect, I couldn’t see it any other way.
With the central site of Sargasso directing the interactions in this title, it is impossible not to credit this shadowy abode as character in its own right. George uses Sargasso the residence to her full advantage, it is a place that incites love, friendship, understanding, adventure, family, memories, pain, history, secrets, drama, heartache, tragedy and nostalgia. I will be looking back on Sargasso with nothing but fondness and I would love nothing more than to experience this overwhelming story again. Sargasso receives the highest recommendation from me, five plus many more stars.
Sargasso by Kathy George was published on 3rd February 2021 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Sargasso, Kathy George, visit here.
Sargasso is book #9 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge