Vida Tremayne, an author in her 50s, has been deserted. By her husband, for a younger woman, by her 30-something daughter Dory, for work and a hectic life in London, by her agent and publisher, by her inspiration and muse and even her fertility and womanhood as she goes through the menopause. It is into this lonely and empty life in the cottage that was the inspiration for Vida’s acclaimed novel, ‘The Gingerbread House’, that the enigmatic Rhiannon Townsend is invited. Is Rhiannon just a New Age do-gooder, who can help Vida re-kindle the creative fire, or has she more sinister plans?
‘The Testament of Vida Tremayne’ is an excellent psychological thriller that tracks the terrifying disintegration of one woman’s mind. The story has parallels with Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ in its theme, with a subtle touch. Here the horror is created slowly in the reader’s mind until the book, like Rhiannon, has wormed its way into your life and won’t let you put it down!
The way that the cottage and landscape are not simply a backdrop, but act with the characters – sometimes benevolent, sometimes malevolent – is very well done, as is the sense of season. Vida’s decline is set against the turning of late summer into autumn and then the chill of winter.
The underlying themes in the book include creativity – where does it come from, and where does it go? – as well as the mother/daughter bond and the question of madness and sanity. It’s certainly not a heavy-going book, however, and there is plenty of astute observation as well as touches of humour, especially regarding the London literary scene.
I’m not sure, but I think a book within a book is what’s called a device of metafiction . Whatever it is called, I’d not only recommend ‘The Testament of Vida Tremayne’ to readers who love a good thriller with cracking characters, but I’d also like to read ‘The Gingerbread House’!