The Last Days of Leda Grey is rather an unusual book with probably one of the most stunning covers I have seen in a long time….truly beautiful!
Published by Orion, Essie Fox’s latest novel, is released this month (November 2016) and is one that will transport you, the reader, to a very different time and place!!
Please read on for my full review…..
A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.
During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.
Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect.
But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.
Ed Peters is a journalist disillusioned with the life he is leading. The partying and excesses of his lifestyle are taking their tole
‘I hardly recognised myself. So much gaunter than the glam-rock boy whose photograph and byline were displayed on the ‘Hip and Happening’ page of London’s City magazine. My mornings spent in Fleet Street with the clatter and bash of typewriters, writing reviews on rising stars promoted on the London scene. Longer lazy afternoons with all the other boozed up hacks who lushed in antiquated bars, until the evenings spent at gigs or films, or parties after shows – before it all began again.’
Ed, packs up his things and takes a journey that will forever change his life.
He finds himself in the seaside town of Brightlands. A place full of history and tragedy. It’s not long before Ed is swept up in a story that is straight out of another era. As a reader we are transported back to the silent movies of the early 20th Century and to a time of magic and wonderment.
In an old curiosity shop Ed becomes transfixed with a photograph he sees of an actress from the early movies. Her eyes, her hair, her alluring beauty seem to call out to Ed. To his utter amazement he discovers that her name is Leda Grey and she still is in residence, living as a recluse, at her home, White Cliff House, at nearby Cuckham Sands.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility of something new and different for his newspaper column, Ed seeks to investigate the full story behind the enigmatic and elusive Leda Grey.
Ed makes his way to White Cliff House and discovers the most fascinating story. Surrounded by memories and paraphernalia of a long gone era, Ed is almost transported through time.
Leda unveils truths from her past, slowly drip feeding information to Ed, as he struggles with the enormity of what he finds.
‘How strange that in our times of grief, we try to see what isn’t real, when the hopes and dreams we cling to are no more than scraps of fantasy’
Leda is a starlet from a time when adventure and creativity were what made the silent movie so exciting. The use of such dramatic sets and lighting made the viewer unsure of the reality of a scene.
Ed Peters finds himself completely caught up in this reality of Leda Grey’s. He is consciously aware that something very strange is taking place, yet he is completely obsessed with her story and continues his search to uncover the truth.
Leda Grey, even as an old lady, radiates a sensuality that Ed finds hard to resist.
‘I felt such abject misery, to be yearning for a woman’s youth which no longer existed in any form but the two dimensions of her film’
She exudes an almost ethereal aura, surrounded by a haunted otherworldliness that draws Ed in.
Essie Fox writes in a manner I haven’t read before, an old style in a current book. This is Essie’s first venture into the Edwardian period, as her previous novels have been set in the Victorian era.
Although The Last Days of Leda Grey opens in 1976, we are soon immersed in the mesmerising world of cinematography in it’s infancy. Essie Fox takes us back to a time reminiscent of the great American actresses of the Silent Screen like Louise Brooks.
One of my favourite movies in recent years was ‘The Artist’, directed by Michael Hazanavicius. For me it was a movie that portrayed the essence of the life of an actress in the silent age when it was all about the eyes and the expressions that the actress used, almost hypnotizing the viewer and drawing them into the fictitious world on screen.
In The Last Days of Leda Grey, Essie Fox has captured all this and more.
Ed Peters is bewitched and captivated by the haunting story Leda Grey alludes to. Her life was tragic, a bright flame who never truly got to shine. Ed finds himself unearthing ghastly events that had remained hidden from the world for over half a century.
Does Leda Grey get her opportunity to shine again? Will her story finally be told?
It is up to you the reader to purchase a copy of this rather unique and enthralling novel to find out.
Purchase link : The Last Days of Leda Grey
About Essie Fox:
Essie Fox was born and raised in Herefordshire. At Sheffield University she studied English Literature. She then went to live in London to work in newspaper and book publishing ~ after which she spent more than twenty years as a freelance commercial artist.
Since 2011, Essie has been writing novels which are published by Orion Books. The first three books are ‘Victorian’, and her debut, The Somnambulist, was shortlisted for the UK National Book Awards, was featured on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, and has also been optioned for TV/Film by Hat Trick Productions. Her fourth and latest novel, ‘The Last Days of Leda Grey, moves on to the Edwardian era, and also the 1970’s.
Essie is a member of the Historical Writers Association, and The Historical Novels Association. She has appeared at various conferences, literary festivals, and libraries around the UK. She has given talks at the V&A, at the National Gallery, and at many other London events. She has been a guest author on several BBC radio stations, and has also contributed to the Royal National Institute for the Blind Telephone book clubs.
Website : Essie Fox
Twitter : http://twitter.com/essiefox