The tale of Stasya Andersson is one of love, loss, and a long-standing question of identity. Growing up with only her widowed father for close company, she lives a sheltered existence under his wing. While happy for a time, her ancestral home seems to have some kind of sway on her, with memories that belonged to her mother Anastasya, who died in childbirth with Stasya, surfacing in the younger Andersson without reasonable explanation. Soon memories become apparitions, and Stasya is driven to understand the purpose for her mother’s return.
Hoping to make sense of her unusual and troubling circumstances, Stasya yearns for outside company in her mother’s cousin, Gabriel, and the two begin to form an unlikely friendship as Stasya grows into a young woman, much to her father’s chagrin. When her mother’s persona begins to manifest stronger than ever before in Stasya, she must come to terms with the troubling feelings surfacing in her, and the uncomfortable secret truths held onto by her late mother, at risk of losing herself entirely.
The author’s description of the story as “Wuthering Heights re-imagined and retold through the eyes of Cathy’s daughter” is apt, though the book takes pains to distance its characters and ideas from those of the classic; the inspirations are nonetheless clear and it’s not difficult to see where each character is born from. It emulates the classical Brontë style without drawing too heavily from the source, utilizing a straightforward yet elegant writing style that makes the book extremely accessible and very, very readable. There’s a fantastic pace and flow between chapters which really has you giving in to at least just a few more pages than expected every time you pick it up.
The book touches on themes and subjects that may make some readers uncomfortable, with seemingly every significant relationship in Stasya’s life providing serious issues for her. Her parents have incredible influence on her life to the point of being potentially abusive, while her only real outside influence comes in the form of the unexpectedly attractive Gabriel, whose company begins to twist into something a lot more intimate. These themes are not used flippantly, and the story benefits from their inclusion, however it cannot be understated for those sensitive to those issues to potentially avoid the book, despite its quality.
There are very few sticking points that diminish the quality of the read. While maybe not appealing to everyone, even Brontë readers who might be expecting something a lot closer to the inspirational work, it still stands out as a very engaging read with that unique and endearing high-class drama common to classical literature. By the end, it successfully pulls all these elements together, making Eternally Haunted a rare and exceptional, and haunting, read. It’s a beautiful and at times quietly unnerving story that enraptures you with its stand-out plot and setting.
Content warning for themes of trauma and death, experienced by children, as well as some themes of incestuous love.