Some books are easier to review than others. "Ghost" by Helen Grant is one of the more difficult ones. It is easy to tell you that it's a superb book, beautifully written and with a tense and gripping storyline that draws you in and then keep you engaged to the very end. And it is easy to tell you that the two central characters are utterly believable, despite the bizarre circumstances in which they meet. Where it gets less easy is in deciding what to say about the storyline. This is a book it would be so easy to spoil completely by giving even a little too much away. When in doubt we tend to stick to the principle that a reviewer shouldn't provide more in the way of potential spoilers than readers can find on the blurb on the back of the jacket or the publisher's publicity sheet. So that's what we'll do here.
The central character is Augusta McAndrew. She lives in a large run-down house on a secluded estate in Perthshire with her grandmother, Rose. Augusta is 17, and for her entire life she has lived in Langlands House. Augusta has only ever known her grandmother: indeed, Rose is the only other human she has ever interacted with. On the very infrequent occasions outsiders have come to the house, Augusta has been hidden away by Rose, like the time the roofing contractor and his son came to fix a fallen chimney. The reasons for this have been compelling, but Augusta longs to know what the world beyond the forest surrounding Langlands is really like. Yes, she has a large library at her disposal, but it's no substitute for real life. Langlands is largely self-sufficient, but Rose does sometimes drive into the nearby town for items they cannot grow on the estate. One day she leaves for town, and doesn't come back.
Augusta tries to carry on, but her life becomes increasingly desperate. And then a visitor arrives. Tom was the son of the roofing contractor, and he glimpsed Augusta when they were working on the chimney. He's returned to discover whether he saw a real person or a ghost, and finds Augusta. As two very different worlds collide, Augusta finds herself having to question everything she was ever told by her grandmother: and having to confront the possibly very dark reality that underpins her existence. We'll switch back to a straight quote from the blurb at this point: "As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?"