About the book
How do you solve a mystery when the clues are hidden in the past?
The Companion is a beautiful and powerfully-told story of buried secrets, set between the 1930s and the present day, on the wild Yorkshire moors.
Billy Shaw lives in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace, the best entertainment venue in Yorkshire, complete with dancing and swing-boats and picnickers and a roller-skating rink.
Jasper Harper lives in the big house above the valley, with his eccentric mother Edie and Uncle Charles, brother and sister authors who have come from London to write in the seclusion of the moors.
When it is arranged for Billy to become Jasper’s companion, Billy arrives to find a wild, peculiar boy in a curiously haphazard household where nothing that’s meant is said and the air is thick with secrets. Later, when Charles and Edie are found dead, it is ruled a double suicide, but fictions have become tangled up in facts and it’s left to Anna Sallis, almost a century later, to unravel the knots and piece together the truth
The Companion was slightly different to what I was expecting but I enjoyed it a lot. It is a dual narrative novel with Anna in modern day and Billy in the 1930s. Anna has moved into the area to start again after suffering an emotional loss. She becomes friendly with Frank, a local man who encourages her to convince the board who have control of the old palace to open the top floor to the public.
Billy who lived in the village in the 1930s and whose family worked at the palace is told he is to become a companion to Jasper, who lives with his mother and uncle at their home High Hob which is up on the moors. At first, he misses his family and friends but settles in to his new life.
I found all three members of the family spoilt, snobbish and very unpleasant. Jasper, especially made my skin crawl. A lot of children would play games, where they would convince each other that there were wild animals in the area but he had a healthy obsession with death, cruelty and power.
I couldn’t work out what had happened. Most of what Anna learned was from passed down memories and not all of them were accurate. What you think you learned about Billy in modern day was proved to be false a few chapters later. I liked the way this was done, having worked on family history for years you always hear stories that are later proven to be inaccurate.
I liked his character a lot. He understood immediately what Jasper was capable of, had hopes for a successful future and dreamt of a life with Lizzie. His friendship with Lizzie was lovely to read but also upsetting at times.
I’ve always enjoyed a novel that covers different generations and found this novel to be remarkable. There was the 1930s where life was changing dramatically. Between the wars, and a changing approach to the way the working class enjoyed their leisure time. And then modern day, where people realized they should know more about what their predecessors did in work and leisure.
The whole area felt real. I could see the transformation of the old palace and feel the isolation of the moors and the people who lived in both. The superstitious shepherd, the cook who couldn’t cook and the maid who witnessed more than she realised.
A fascinating book about a Yorkshire community and its history. Recommended.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received