Yep, it’s another Kate Morton. This time, The Shifting Fog is one of her earlier works.
Following her classic formula, we follow a present day protagonist as she pieces together a mystery from the past. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for Morton, but I did really appreciate the way she described extreme old age.
Grace Bradley is 98 years old when the book is set in 1999, and we experience flashbacks to her youth when she worked as a servant in a wealthy house in the early 1900s. I found this a really interesting contrast in settings and moral values – even though we were witnessing 98-year-old Grace struggling with cassette tapes as the most current form of technology (keeping in mind The Shifting Fog is 12 years old itself).
A perfect sprinkling of mystery and intrigue, I found myself thoroughly engrossed in this story, though somewhat predictable.
It’s quite a long novel, and probably didn’t need to be quite so long – but Kate Morton includes quite a bit of filler content. I appreciate it though! She’s great as describing insignificant moments, like this:
A cold breeze brought with it a cluster of forgotten items; a confectionary wrapper, some dried leaves, a brown and green duck’s feather. They danced along the reaches of the street, resting then twirling in step with each gust. At one point, the feather reeled on ahead, embraced by a partner more vigorous than the last, which lifted it and sent it pirouetting up over the sop rooves and out of sight.
(Is ‘rooves’ a word? I would have spelled it ‘roofs’. Hmm.)
Morton also has an interesting way of bringing moments to life, making feelings tangible – like this:
A stubborn silence settled between them. The room itself seemed to take sides: the walls and curtains retreating into Hannah’s corner, the gramophone offering obsequious support to Emmeline.
Finally, back to the extreme old age thing, it’s terrifying but also really interesting to read how it must feel to be 98 years old. I know for a fact Morton hasn’t been 98 years old before, but she puts some interesting wording around it:
The light is making me warm. I am tired. My heart flutters a little. Or something inside my heart flutters; an artery worn so thin that a flap has come loose, is waving about, lost, in the current of my blood.
Um, gross. But also a powerful visual that gives us some idea of the feeling.
This book had very Downton Abbey vibes. The era was interesting, the contrast between past and future was engaging, and the story itself – while predictable – was still very gripping.