Review: The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland

Title: The Valley of Lost Stories

Author: Vanessa McCausland

Published: 2nd December 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy HarperCollins Au/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

‘There’s something about this place. This whole valley….I feel like anything could happen. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad….”

When Emmie wins a week’s holiday on the coast from a school raffle, she impulsively invites new friends Nathalie, Alexandra, Pen, and their children, to join her and her daughter. Each woman has a different reason to look forward to a break from their hectic lives so when the accomodation falls through and a client of Alexandra’s generously offers an alternative they leap at the chance. Considered the jewel of Capertee Valley when the area was home to a thriving shale oil mining operation, the Valley Hotel now sits isolated on the outskirts of an abandoned town. The women, and their children, are initially charmed by the hotel’s faded Art Deco elegance, and ready to embrace a week of relaxation, but the Valley is a place of secrets, and when Pen vanishes without a trace one morning, the third woman to disappear in mysterious circumstances in the hotel’s history, they are all forced to confront some uncomfortable truths.

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, across two timelines, The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland is a captivating women’s fiction novel with a thrilling edge of suspense.

McCausland deftly explores the complexities of self, motherhood, friendship, love and loss in The Valley of Lost Stories. Her four main protagonists are struggling with a variety of challenges associated primarily with marriage and motherhood, which also affects how they see themselves, and each other. Several of these issues are forced into the open during their stay in Valley Hotel, straining their friendships with one other. The characters are richly developed, and there is an honesty to their thoughts and behaviours which women, and mothers in particular, will recognise.

There is a growing sense of unease that McCausland carefully cultivates even before Pen’s inexplicable disappearance. In part this comes from the storyline that takes place in 1946 and explores the fate of a woman named Clara Black who walked into the night and vanished during a dance at the hotel. In the present timeline, Pen’s son claims to see a ghostly apparition on their very first day, Macie, their hostess, begins to behave oddly soon after, and tension develops between the friends. When these elements are combined with an understanding of the tragic history of the area (involving the horrific massacre of an Aboriginal tribe), the gothic impression of the hotel, and the author’s vivid descriptions of the abandoned mines and town surrounded by the dense bush of the Blue Mountains, there is a feeling of dream-like anxiety that snaps sharply into focus when the women realise Pen is gone.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Valley of Lost Stories is an absorbing and atmospheric tale, beautifully told, I’m happy to recommend.


Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz
    Dec 16, 2020 @ 23:34:21

    This sounds like a great read.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Lindsi
    Dec 17, 2020 @ 01:58:18

    This one sounds really lovely! I love when there are multiple POVs and timelines!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Verushka, an editor (@SydneyEditor1)
    Dec 17, 2020 @ 22:13:44

    The atmosphere in this book sounds very appealing.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Helen Murdoch
    Dec 19, 2020 @ 08:15:52

    Marriage and motherhood, two themes I am intimately aware of. I did much worse at the marriage end of things than motherhood! This one sounds good.



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  6. Carla
    Dec 21, 2020 @ 13:31:09

    Now, this one sounds like it is right up my alley. I love women’s fiction, a beautiful setting and some tension, sounds perfect and I love the cover. Great review Shelleyrae.

    Liked by 1 person


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