During a forty-minute period of inattention while her mother is otherwise engaged at the estate's stables, little Victoria Blackshaw, the cherished, pretty, younger daughter, disappears from her pram. The repercussions haunt her mother, her eight-year-old sister Charlotte, and the servants for years to come.
With no clues to what happened, rather than accept that Victoria got out of her pram and wandered to the rain-swollen river, Lady Edwina Blackshaw focuses on Theresa Kelly, a servant who left the estate that day. Unfortunately, by the time Kelly becomes the suspect of choice, she's already sailed from Ireland on her way to Australia, intending to marry a farmer there. It's 1917,no one remembers the name of the farmer, and there's really no way to track her.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has stopped talking. Altogether.
McLoughlin lovingly develops the internal stresses of the Blackshaw family, as well as the servants, most importantly Lily East, the housekeeper when Victoria disappears, and Nurse Dixon, the abusive nanny in charge of the children.
The depiction of Ireland between the wars, and the gradual development of the characters of Edwina, Charlotte, Charlotte's father Waldron, as well as Lily East, Dixon, and other important characters in their lives is beautifully done, and I was completely absorbed almost from the first paragraph. Because this is a character-driven rather than plot-driven story, it's difficult to say more without spoilers, but this should be a pleasure for anyone who enjoys family dramas.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.