THE BELOVED GIRLS
BY HARRIET EVANS
“It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. It’s half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -” my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. “And half for us.”
Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?
The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .
‘We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.’