The Last Days of Leda Grey
This latest novel from, Essie Fox is in the tradition of her other novels, The Somnambulist, Elijah’s Mermaid and The Goddess and The Thief, three individual wonderfully written books, based in the Victorian era. The Last Days of Leda Grey, is a bit different, it’s not based in that period but, Fox has shifted her attention to one long hot summer in the mid seventies and going back in time to the Edwardian era and to the early days of silent films.
Ed, is a hip young journalist, working for a trendy London magazine. We learn he has had a troubled past and is a bit wasted from too much excess from a life in Fleet Street. While in the “Brightland” lanes, he comes across a little shop selling all kinds of hippy and occult paraphernalia, he sees a photo of Bette Davis and on a whim, because it reminds him of his mother, he goes into the shop. The proprietor is an old man, a bit shabby with a Bobby Charlton comb over. As Ed looks round the shop he sees some monochrome pictures of a dark-haired beauty. He is captivated by her and when the old man tells him she is still alive, he decides to track her down, thinking there could be a story in it for his magazine.
I thought this book was fantastic, I’m not great at writing reviews and only do it when something moves me, something I’ve really enjoyed. I read this book very quickly, it just flows along on the page, the writing is rich and descriptive, I like how great writers do that and it was so clever how Fox, made a kind of parallel universe in the town of Brightland, reminded me a bit of Lyra’s Oxford, in Philip Pullmans, His Dark Materials books. When I started to write this, I had to skimm through the book to help jog my memory and was once again, struck by the wonderful writing of Essie Fox. All the characters are fascinating and well-drawn. Her locations make you feel as if you are in them, with the claustrophobia of the Brightland Lanes shop, to the mysterious shed. The house on the cliff, with its run-down rooms, like an old mausoleum. Every page is a Gothic painting of words.