Threading the Labyrinth by Tiffani Angus
Unsung Stories, PB, £9.99
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Threading the Labyrinth is a multi-generational, centuries-spanning tale of intrigue and beauty. The story starts in 2010 with Toni, a frazzled American gallery owner who has inherited a manor house in the sprawling British countryside. However, it isn’t the house that takes the show, but the garden; specifically a fairy-tale walled garden that invites and intoxicates all who enter. The story then delves into the past of the garden and the ghosts that it holds, jumping backwards and forwards between five different centuries with a menagerie of characters through the ages.
My only disappointment is the lack of real detailed depth in the historical descriptions; I would have liked each century to have a more rounded picture with portrayals of clothing, etiquette and changes in culture. Furthermore, a continued use of the title ‘Her Ladyship’ gives a timeless quality that can seem confusing when the narrative jumps from the early seventeenth century to 1941 so it is important to pay careful attention to the dated headings. However this does allow the narrative to focus more intricately on the garden and, most importantly, the characters that interact with it.
In this respect Tiffani Angus has achieved a masterwork of mystery. She introduces us to her enticing characters and gives us just enough information about each person to leave us wanting more. Who is Thomas really? What happened to Joan? Where did Lilly Marie end up? Each time the story returns to Toni in our own century I kept expecting her to discover a secret, an answer, or a truth, but her journey contained as much mystery as those of her forbearers.
Angus’ changeling tale, woven throughout, creates the perfect air of supernatural mystery, which is enhanced by her refusal to reveal the truth. We are allowed only hints and second hand, sometimes even third-hand, whisperings. In fact the entire novel thrives on myth, rumour and gossip in the most delightful way.
I will be tempted to reread this in the future to see what more of the mystery I can unravel with a second glance.