***SHORTLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION***
From the bestselling author of Asylum, Trauma and Spider
'Ghosts of the theatre and the spectre of fascism haunt cold and grimy London in this atmospheric tale from a master of the grotesque.' Guardian
London is in ruins, there’s nothing to eat, and it’s the coldest winter in living memory.
To make matters worse, Charlie Grice, one of the great stage actors of the day, has suddenly died. His widow Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is beside herself with grief.
Then one night she discovers Gricey’s secret. Plunged into a dark new world, Joan realises that though fascism might hide, it never dies. Her war isn’t over after all.
'McGrath is one of the age's most elegantly accomplished divers into the human psyche . . . a master writer.' John Banville
‘McGrath is that rare yet essential thing, a writer who can expose our darkest fears without making us run away from them.' New Statesman
'Wonderfully sinister … a delight … you are in for a thrilling ride.' Spectator
'A brilliant evocation of the theatrical world’s seedy glamour, The Wardrobe Mistress is also a moving portrait of a woman struggling to make sense of her past and imagine a future for herself.' Sunday Times
'[A] rich and highly spiced feast of a novel, even before it reaches its classically gothic McGrath climax.' Reader's Digest
The Wardrobe Mistress isn’t just an entertaining ghost story, assembled by a master-manipulator to be full of narrative trapdoors, tantalising at one moment and agreeably grotesque the next: it’s also an exploration of the deep mythology of theatre . . . McGrath himself seems ambivalent about the sentimentality he depicts. But there’s no political ambivalence here: by the end of the novel, the icy postwar alleys, the shattered theatres and public houses are under the malign enchantment of a quietly resurgent politics. The plentiful mirrorings, the doppelgangers and dybbuks both real and false, make that plain, and make plain that fascism is also a kind of theatre – always already a re-enactment of itself.
A brilliant evocation of the theatrical world’s seedy glamour, The Wardrobe Mistress is also a moving portrait of a woman struggling to make sense of her past and imagine a future for herself.
McGrath is so adept at creating a sense of foreboding that one is never sure whether there will be a rational, a psychiatric or a supernatural explanation . . . wonderfully sinister . . . a delight . . . you are in for a thrilling ride.
A chilling novel of grief, passion and unfulfilled longing, where secrets lurk in every dark alley . . . McGrath takes us backstage in the London theatre — and you can just about smell the greasepaint. But he also opens out his story to embrace the zeitgeist of the time, the misery and deprivation of post-war Britain, the persistent running sore of fascism and the feeling that life after victory isn’t what it was supposed to be.
A rich and highly spiced feast of a novel, even before it reaches its classically gothic McGrath climax
[A] theatrical tale of malice, artifice and stunted affection.
Splendid…spooky, elegant, self-aware and intellectually deft
[An] unnerving thriller.
McGrath delivers another accomplished novel.