When you have one of Barbara’s books in your hands you feel as if you’re holding something precious; at first, when you receive it – and you have really been looking forward to getting that box from Amazon! – It contains all the magic of an untold story that you know you will enjoy to the very last word. As you read it and the story unfolds you find yourself trapped by the characters, the plot, the beautifully described places and so many strong emotions – fear, love, despair, evil, good, misery, bliss and always, always a mysterious hovering shadow.
However I found this story quite different from the others; first of all because the main character of the past is a man, not a woman as in all of Barbara’s previous books. This is the story of one of her ancestors, Thomas Erskine who came to be a very prominent figure in the early 19th century British society. The present day character, a woman called Ruth, is fictional and has the characteristics we have come to love in her previous heroines. She is a lonely woman, disappointed in love and with a tendency to dwell in the past; also, she is not afraid of living alone in old mysterious houses, or if she is she is brave enough to face her ghosts and pursue her mission of discovering the story of her ancestor Thomas, whom she shares with Barbara.
The book tells us how Thomas grows from a boy from an impoverished noble Scottish family to a young man whose principles will not allow him to make any concessions, even when he knows his choices will haunt him forever. Still, what I liked most about him was that no matter his staunch beliefs and morality, he is still very human, making the same mistakes as any person would; he becomes a powerful man, but never an arrogant one; he may have to be cold in his professional decisions but never in his private life, for he is deeply in love with his wife and a doting father to his many children. So this is a figure we can easily relate to – even if a brilliant lawyer he had to work very hard and make great sacrifices to achieve success.
I felt the same about Ruth. She is the woman next door, she could be any of us trying to mend a broken hear after a disappointing relationship, and beginning another in a calm, serene way, much more realistic than many crazy passions so often described in books that in the end have no match in reality.
The interesting thing about this book is that these characters, no matter how real and down to earth they may be, are still fascinating and we find ourselves not being able to put down the book as we always need to know more about their story and how it will end.
Now this is something I will not tell you, of course. I would not spoil your pleasure of reading The Ghost Tree for anything in the world. Order it now and enjoy a few hours of great time and space travelling; escape to a place of fantasy where only Barbara can take us and then, as you finish reading, I’m sure you’ll be left with the same bittersweet taste that I felt this morning as I reluctantly put her book down, and one I have felt every time I finish reading one of her books ; the feeling that I want to go back in time to the moment I began reading the first page, so that I may enjoy it all over again.
And now, to patiently wait for her next book to be released, while from time to time I go back to old favourites such as Lady of Hay or Kingdom of Shadows or even her previous book Sleeper’s Castle. For hopefully we’ll have another book in 2020, but oh my God, it’s going to feel like a long time!