‘And then, as the cloth was split in two, long, black hair tumbled forth, still attached to grey bones, now wet in the midday sun. …Behind, a crow called accusingly.’ Prologue.
My first impression of The Bishop’s Girl was of a quiet story of frustrated lives as two scholars in hushed archives are stymied in their own ambitions by their boss. And this is indeed one of the stories threaded amidst several layers in this novel. But then it becomes clear that this no less than a cold case detective story. From few clues arise many questions. Why, for instance, was the Bishop considered so important as to be dug up from a wartime district and then reburied in England? How did an unidentified woman come to be buried with him? Who was she? The scholars, Jess and Billy, find hints and fragments in the old letters but will these leads come to anything? And I read on enthralled by the mystery of it.
As we learn more of the unexpected century old romantic connection with Greece, and as Jess begins an affair, I found myself reading for the tangle of relationships between lovers, between spouses, between parents and children, and all of their messiness and importance.
But now, with hindsight, I think this absorbing and satisfying novel is mostly a story of secrets, especially of secrets within families, and how they can have far reaching repercussions. It is a great read on all these levels.
Where to find The Bishop’s Girl which is published by Odyssey Books. At BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, and Waterstones, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels also include Beyond the Bay. See her website here.
You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.