sugar_hall_pbk72.jpgSugar Hall

Tiffany Murray
The book came with a high recommendation by another author, I pursued Tiffany to come to the Llandeilo Lit Fest, but things didn’t work out this time round. My interest was aroused, though, and with her book being part of the reliably great catalogue of Seren  I couldn’t resist getting it.
This is a ghost story with some dark tones and some amazing psychological writing. When a boy reports he can see a different boy with a collar around his neck, his mother doesn’t know how to respond other than to shrug it off as a childish notion.
Yet, as the story progresses, it isn’t just her son who gets affected by the ghost’s appearance.
Murray tells also the story of this mother, not an uninteresting one at that, namely that of a girl coming to Britain from Germany via the Kindertransports of 1938.
There is a stark contrast between the innocence and naivety of the young with the chilling darkness of the ghost story. I’m not usually one for books with such dark undertones but I found it very engaging, not least because of the historical component. There are small snippets of newspaper articles and other short material separating the chapters that add to the richness and the layered texture of the novel. While not all of them made perfect sense to me, some stayed with me for a long time, regardless. Very engaging and gripping.

Easter 1955. As Lilia Sugar scrapes the ice from the inside of the windows and the rust from the locks in Sugar Hall, she knows there are pasts she cannot erase. On the very edge of the English/Welsh border, the red gardens of Sugar Hall hold a secret, and as Britain prepares for its last hanging, Lilia and her children must confront a history that has been buried but not forgotten.

Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray.

‘A beautiful and haunting book. Tiffany Murray is a wonderful storyteller.’ Sarah Winman, author of When God Was a Rabbit

Sugar Hall is not just a brilliantly effective ghost story. It also pries open a window on to a vanished decade, exploring the long consequences of old sins and the suffering of the exile, the refugee and the powerless. Chillingly empathetic, it’s a book that cries out to be read again – and again.’ Andrew Taylor, author of The American Boy and The Scent of Death

‘A shiveringly good read, Sugar Hall reminds me of the days when I used to read under the bedcovers with a torch, because I simply had to find out what happened next.’Aminatta Forna, author of The Hired Man

‘Tiffany Murray isn’t quite like anyone else writing today. She’s a mad geneticist of a writer, specialising in taking narrative elements we think we know and splicing them with the unexpected, giving us Emily Bronte the rock chick (Diamond Star Halo) or Stella Gibbons with a louchely 70s drug habit (Happy Accidents). Sugar Hall lingers in the mind like a half-remembered nightmare and confirms Murray’s as an intensely British talent.’ Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man.

‘As darkly tantalising as any enchanted forest, a novel that sees a writer with the lightest of touches take on the deepest of our fears – spellbinding.’ Tim Butcher, author of The Trigger

Sugar Hall is a dark tale brightly told, beautifully written and thoroughly unsettling.’ Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers and A Heart Bent Out of Shape

‘Tender, troubling and telling, Sugar Hall is a box of delights. With prose delicate as moth scales, Tiffany Murray has written her best book to date, a simply delicious and creepy read,’ Jon Gower

‘A mysterious, complex and riveting novel, poised between this world and the next.’ – New Welsh Review