Once a headmistress, now an artist, Clarice Mitchell considers herself to be a capable, no-nonsense sort of person but she's also aware that, at 69 and with failing health, she has become too reclusive. She accepts an invitation to be part of the Beacon Theatre Company's next production when she realises that the remote moorland farmhouse where the rehearsals are to be held is the place so loved and talked about by her long-ago teacher, Roberta Wilcox.
Roberta's grandmother had been born at this isolated farmhouse. An ancient site which before becoming a farm had been a 15th priory and later an inn. Soon after her arrival Clarice begins to have serious concerns about her health. Not only does she suffer dizzy spells but frequently sees the figures of two women. Who is the middle-aged woman in Victorian dress who watches her? And the wild-haired girl first glimpsed standing in a moorland pool and later on a journey?
It is a time-shift story with the lives of each woman told in alternating chapters. It reminded me of authors like Barbara Erskine and Susanna Kearsley but their books can be 500 - 600 pages long while The Meeting Place is a mere 212 pages. When Clarice starts to look back at the events of her life as well it all seemed too much for so few pages to handle. Apart from the location I could see no connection between the women and could sympathise with Clarice...
" There is something I'm being told that I don't want to accept, it waits for me, like a patient presence."Of course, it all makes sense at the end. A very moving ending that saw me shedding a tear or two! So skilfully constructed and with some beautiful prose it reminds us that despite the ever-changing patterns of time on landscapes and people some things remain forever the same. And one of those things is living with the consequences of the choices we make.
I enjoyed The Meeting Place very much and was a little sad to find virtually no mention of it at all, or of Mary Hocking's other twenty-three books, when I googled this morning. She seems to have slid into obscurity which is a great pity.