The Whistling

Title: The Whistling

Writer: Rebecca Netley

Publishing House: Michael Joseph

Date of Publication: October 14th 2021

Rating: 5 stars

‘’As I neared Iskar, my eyes drifted to Hettie’s window, and something against the pane stopped me in my tracks. I pinned my attention to it and was assailed with a spike of disquiet. As I tried to mould what I had witnessed into cloud, whatever it was moved closer to the glass and revealed itself. There in Hettie’s window was Mary herself, her expression solemn as she gazed back down upon me. My heart stilled in relief. Then, as my vision adjusted, another shape appeared behind her, before the light failed and cast the image into darkness.’’

Elspeth leaves Edinburgh and a bitter loss behind for Skelthsea and Iskar, a mysterious house that provides shelter (or does it…) to a young girl whose life has been marred by tragedy. Being a nanny gifted with a special instinct and a deep love for children, she begins to uncover the secrets echoing in the wind, the obsession and despair. A soft lullaby is heard every night, a whistling faint, yet unmistakable, echoes through the old walls, and nightmares haunt Elspeth’s mind. 

And this is one of the finest novels you’ll ever read.

‘’The world gives birth to both the viper and the lamb, and there are churches for each.’’

Set in a truly ‘’wuthering’’ corner of Scotland where the wind and the wrath of the sea unite with the echoes and woes of the past, Rebecca Netley’s story will haunt you (in the most exciting manner) long after you turn the last page. Paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter, the beauty of her writing, the aura of the setting, the lively characters compose a literary journey that is darkly enticing. The reader is immediately transported to Skelthsea and Iskar. You will feel the salty wind on your face, you will gaze upon the steep rocks under the moonlight, you will listen to frail steps and the murmuring of a haunting lullaby, you will wander in abandoned rooms, trying to distinguish the shapes in the windows, you will lose yourselves in a maze of vices, lies and pain. And you will turn to look behind your shoulder more than once.

‘’I had been dreaming, running through the streets of Edinburgh, my dress aflame, and yet the fire did not warm me and then I was on the ridge, with Skelthsea below, a ruin of ashes. Only the headstones in the graveyard jutted from the scorched earth. A crow, huddled on Hettie’s plot, regarded me with a preternatural gaze and opened its beak.

 It was not song that fell from its throat but a whistle that soured and sickened on the air and wound like a shadow over the island.’’

With traces of witchcraft, paganism, and spectres, and guided by an earthly, complex, fascinating heroine, The Whistling reads as the beautiful, proud child of The Turn of the Screw although it doesn’t need the comparisons blurb writers adore to make. It shines on its own and it is bound to become a classic of the genre.

‘’As bedtime drew ever nearer, the night came turning its key upon my fear and all I could hear was the wind on the ridge and how it howled across the graves, graves that had not closed the eyes of those that lay there.’’