Reviewed by Kathie Smith
Katherine Webb masterfully intertwines the past and present in A Half Forgotten Song.
Zach Gilchrist has fallen off course somewhere along the way. An aspiring artist specializing in Charles Aubrey, with whom he may or may not share a biological connection, Zach finds himself divorced, facing the reality of his much-loved daughter moving to America, and selling art in a floundering gallery.
His one hope is the advance he received to write a book about Charles Aubrey. He realizes that this cannot be yet another book about Aubrey’s work and life. This book needs an angle, a catch. Blacknowle, England was the summer vacationing spot for Aubrey’s family for several years and this small village along the Dorset coast is where he met Dimity “Mityz” Hatcher – a frequent subject for his prized artwork. Zach believes this is the one place he may find answers concerning the mystery of Charles Aubrey.
Surprisingly, Dimity “Mitzy” Hatcher is still alive yet has never been interviewed by any previous writers of books about Aubrey. Zach is instantly fascinated by an unusual woman whose eyes hold promise of endless possibility. As Zach builds a tenuous relationship with Mitzy, he slowly learns the story of the summer of 1937: Aubrey’s last summer in Dorset before unpredictably entering the war after the death of his daughter and mysterious disappearance of his wife.
Mitzy was a beauty as a child but outcast and ridiculed due to her ragged appearance and unloving mother’s reputation. When Aubreys arrive one summer and Mitzy is quickly befriended by the children, Delphine and Elodie, she feels her heart open with hope and possibility. It is not long before Charles takes notice of Mitzy’s beauty and begins to sketch her. The attention leads to what appears to be a young crush on a handsome man who has, unlike so many others, taken an interest in her.
Mitzy’s relationship with Charles and the rest of the Aubrey family is complex and fascinating. The world is opened for her during a vacation to Morocco, yet she returned to Blacknowle where she remained for life. Mitzy no longer cares that she is considered the odd spinster recluse as she lives with memories, and ghosts, of her past with the seemingly misguided notion that her relationship with Aubrey came to fruition and remains a strong reality for her to this day.
The startling, haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful truths begin to emerge and allow Mitzy to release the ghosts of her past while allowing Zach to see new possibilities for his future. Everything is nicely wrapped up at the end, but it is impossible not to ponder the possibilities of what may come next. Elizabeth Webb has created a captivating modern gothic novel in A Half Forgotten Song that will satisfy fans of Kate Morton, Daphne du Maurier and countless others.
Kathie is a writer, wife, mother and volunteer living in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Her passion for the written word is fulfilled by creating her own fictional work, freelancing, acting as an adviser to another author, and reading with her six year old daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.