The Shadow Guests


Another book I picked up in an op shop that I was delighted to discover. As a young reader, I fell in love with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and was lucky enough to have my copy signed by the author at The Little Bookroom), and also later became a fan of Dido Twite's adventures, as well as Aiken's wonderful short stories. But this standalone novel, 1980's The Shadow Guests, was new to me.

Poor Cosmo has come all the way from Australia, where his father had unsuccessfully tried to avoid a family curse, and meets a hostile reception at his new school. However, in the tradition of Green Knowe, the ancient family home of Courtoys Mill is far more welcoming, and Cosmo soon encounters several ghostly figures, who are all also victims of the curse on the family, and in their different ways, help him to deal with it.

This is quite a dark book, despite the echoes of Green Knowe; family tragedy, grief and loneliness hang over it. The modern reader shakes their head as Cosmo's new headmaster, quite wise in other ways, advises him not to talk about what he's been through. The meeting with seventeenth century Osmond, member of the Hellfire Club and dabbler in black magic, is also pretty scary, as is the sombre reality of the curse. But I loved cousin Eunice and her willingness to speculate on things beyond our ken, in spite of being a scientist. 

The Shadow Guests is packed with characters and atmosphere and a great time-twisty premise, and I think it would appeal to contemporary readers and fans of time-slip and ghost stories as much as it did to me.


  1. This book seems to have slipped under my radar. I will look out for it...sounds as if it contains more than a few of my favourite things.

  2. It's not perfect, but it's definitely enjoyable!