Read of the Week

The Woman in the Wood

Lesley Pearse


Review: Gail Gilbride

Lesley Pearse’s riveting page-turner, The Woman in the Wood, signals a deeper, slightly darker period in her illustrious career. This dramatic, mysterious story, is set in the UK during the 1960s.

Superb characterisation, particularly of the mysterious woman in the wood, is intertwined with the themes of abandonment, love, kindness and deep deception.

The story involves 15-year-old twins, Maisy and Duncan who are sent to live in their grandmother’s house in the New Forest. Love and care are sorely absent from their lives.

Their strict father spends most of his time away from home. Their mother is rarely seen after a horse riding accident, which she blames for her reclusive behaviour. When their father makes the decision to admit his wife to an asylum, he does not explain the situation to the children.

Instead, he sends them to live with their cold, decidedly distant grandmother, Mrs Mitcham who shows scant interest in them. Fortunately, Janice her housekeeper steps into the much needed mothering role.

After classes with their private teacher, the twins explore the forbidden woods and discover the “witch” living there. Duncan in particular, becomes fascinated by her and spends more and more time in her company. When he goes missing, Grace Deville, the mysterious woman in the wood, becomes the prime suspect in everyone’s eyes, except Maisy’s …

Once again, Lesley Pearse’s enduring love for the English countryside is evident throughout this profoundly layered novel. The Woman in the Wood, is a story to take to bed with you and add to your next book club contribution.

Gail Gilbride is a reader from Hout Bay who submitted this review. If you would like to send us a review, email