Part of the Spell is the follow-up to Rachel Heath's The Finest Type of English Womanhood which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.
Heath has opted to move away from historical fiction to examine the dark threads which underlie and hold together small-town English life in the twenty-first century. There are many characters in the novel, but one of its failings is that we never really get to know any of them. The picture that Heath presents is a little too broad, with glimpses into the lives of a group of people all living in the same place and connected by the disappearance of Sheila, a local mum and grandmother.
There is the day-dreamy young mum Stella, the busy museum curator Theresa, the disappointed city worker Jonathan, the secretive estate agent Zeki and the angry blogger Tacita. Gradually all the characters are pulled together as the author examines the hopes and ideals behind their search for 'the good life' and Stella's search to understand why her mother kept so many secrets. This is a story that seems to skim along the surface rather than plummet to the depths; it is never truly engaging. Part of the Spell might appeal to fans of Emily Barr or Maggie O’Farrell, but falls short of the standard of either.