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A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor. In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowni A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor. In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. But by the end of that fateful summer, real tragedy finds them along the banks. Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to the suffocating, once grand house she grew up in, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and gives Maeve the attention she longs for. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary? Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman.


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A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor. In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowni A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor. In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. But by the end of that fateful summer, real tragedy finds them along the banks. Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to the suffocating, once grand house she grew up in, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and gives Maeve the attention she longs for. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary? Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman.

30 review for The Ophelia Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    ‘’I have run from that summer, tried to forget its hazy pleasures and its tragedies, how it ended, how things fell apart. I have trusted the years to fade my memories and destroyed those photographs, never to be looked at again.’’ ‘’There are no answers to be found from this house, from the fields, the woods and the river, even if my dreams are searching for them.’’ The arrival of a friend from her youth takes Ruth back to the last summer of innocence and the haunting memories of the Pheli ‘’I have run from that summer, tried to forget its hazy pleasures and its tragedies, how it ended, how things fell apart. I have trusted the years to fade my memories and destroyed those photographs, never to be looked at again.’’ ‘’There are no answers to be found from this house, from the fields, the woods and the river, even if my dreams are searching for them.’’ The arrival of a friend from her youth takes Ruth back to the last summer of innocence and the haunting memories of the Phelia Girls who idolised Pre-Raphaelite models and spent their days by the water, trying to turn their dreams into reality. Faced with the secrets of the past, Ruth has to cope with her own self. Maeve, her seventeen-year-old daughter, has to cross her own path to adulthood, recovering from a terrible stroke of Fate, discovering the first beatings of her heart and her desires for the future. But our children are always burdened by our own past sins… ‘’And the lightning strike cracked down and a roar of wind came straight towards us, every branch creaking and the leaves heaving like rough seas.’’ Jane Healey’s writing is incredibly beautiful! I’ll say that right away because my review cannot possibly do justice to the beauty of this novel and the less I say the better. The setting, the story, the atmosphere are exceptional. A sleepy hamlet during the last days of a seemingly idyllic summer haunts the characters years after and provides the eternal question: Can we escape the past? Blessed are those who have found the peace to drive every evil of the past away! And what of the hours of solitude we crave when everyone demands too much of us? ‘’And they see me quietly reading’, she said, ‘but they don’t know that in my head I’m dancing with satyrs or following Achilles on the battlefield as he cuts men left and right in violent rage for Patroclus, or that I’m the Sphinx in Thebes demanding Oedipus answer my riddles.’’ The story is rich in symbols. Ophelia and Persephone, the young women who were led astray or so they’d have us believe. Water and flowers, the symbols of life and rejuvenation. Death and Rebirth. Nature is hiding its own secrets well. Art and Literature make our souls flourish, they liberate us when others try to hold us down and lead us astray. Freedom and independence, the bond between children and parents. The expectations of others that are not ours to fulfil. Love and guilt and regret. All these eternal - allow me the adjective - themes are depicted through a tense atmosphere where summer laziness makes feelings go wild, taking over our lives, wed to a deep sensuality and a threatening setting. Storms are brewing underneath the surface. Shakespearean references are abundant and poignant, the scenes of the Ophelia Girls are true poetry, storm imagery and breathtaking nightly sequences create an impeccable canvas. ‘’There’s something terrifying about being awake alone in a dark house, something thrilling. No one watching you but the walls and the empty rooms and the pictures, the mirrors reflecting a shadowy second self.’’ Each character has a special path to follow. I adored Maeve, her passion, her determination, her courage. Stuart and Camille, controversial figures, remained a beautiful mystery to me, enticing and one to ponder on. Alex, on the other hand, was an ox and Ruth didn’t manage to find a way into my heart. Her views, her behaviour, and her hysterics were a bit out of hand for my personal taste. This issue aside - a personal opinion, naturally - The Ophelia Girls is a breathtakingly beautiful (yes, I know I’ve used the word already…) novel, lyrical and haunting, difficult, demanding, whimsical. It is the summer of innocence and the autumn of our disillusionment. ‘’Soon. Soon I’ll be gone, I’ll be far away where no one knows me, where I can start again with no watchful eyes and no expectations.’’ Many thanks to Haughton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Alan

    The Ophelia Girls is partially set in 1973, when Ruth and her girlfriends spend their summer days taking pictures of each other in the river with flowers adorning them, reminiscent of drowning Ophelia. It jumps to 1997, when Ruth has a 17=year-old daughter, Maeve, and two young twins. Ruth is barely holding it together, partially from the economic expense of their large, old house. She did her best during the years Maeve battled leukemia, finally beating the cancer thanks to a bone marrow transp The Ophelia Girls is partially set in 1973, when Ruth and her girlfriends spend their summer days taking pictures of each other in the river with flowers adorning them, reminiscent of drowning Ophelia. It jumps to 1997, when Ruth has a 17=year-old daughter, Maeve, and two young twins. Ruth is barely holding it together, partially from the economic expense of their large, old house. She did her best during the years Maeve battled leukemia, finally beating the cancer thanks to a bone marrow transplant from her younger brother. When Ruth and her husband Alex’s good friend from their youth, Stuart, stays with them, Maeve feels seen as an adult and not the sick child she was for so long. This is not a fast-paced book. The writing is good, but some of the content made me wince a little. It’s fun to imagine the social mores of 1973 and 1997 and how I might have flourished or not under those circumstances, but I didn’t find this a particularly enjoyable read. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel, which RELEASES AUGUST 10, 2021.

  3. 4 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: lesbian mc, gay side character CWs: grooming, adult-minor relationship, drowning, homophobia, cheating The Ophelia Girls is a heady and consuming book, one that absorbs you into the characters’ lives and doesn’t release you until the very end. When you’re reading it, it doesn’t feel like it’s cold and wet outside, but instead, that you’ve joined the characters during the hot and humid summer(s) over which events take place. The story follows dual timelines: one, the daughter Mae On my blog. Rep: lesbian mc, gay side character CWs: grooming, adult-minor relationship, drowning, homophobia, cheating The Ophelia Girls is a heady and consuming book, one that absorbs you into the characters’ lives and doesn’t release you until the very end. When you’re reading it, it doesn’t feel like it’s cold and wet outside, but instead, that you’ve joined the characters during the hot and humid summer(s) over which events take place. The story follows dual timelines: one, the daughter Maeve, recently in remission from cancer, and two, the mother Ruth, whose return to her father’s house in the country brings with it memories of her last summer there. Across both, Stuart, Ruth’s old friend, who insinuates himself, first into Ruth’s life, and later into Maeve’s (and yes, I do mean that as sinisterly as it sounds). Let me start with what’s good about this book. As I mentioned up top, it’s a book that consumes you. It’s a book you read, feeling as though you’re physically there. There is, of course, good and bad to that (the bad — for me, I hasten to add — I’ll come to in a moment), but primarily I think it’s a great thing. And because you feel like you’re there, you also feel the creeping sense of unease that permeates the book. That consumingness, that realness, extends to the characters as well. None of them are what you might immediately think of as good or nice people — they’re selfish and often unkind (and really effing creepy when it comes to Stuart), but they’re probably one of the realest groups of characters I’ve read in a long time. And I think that contributes to the book feeling very headily intimate. So, just where did it fall down for me? That would be in the whole grooming aspect. This is, of course, a wholly personal thing, and I think that it was actually very well done. You, the reader, feel the creeping uneasiness about Stuart’s intentions even as Maeve welcomes them (and feels that she is in control, and consenting). But, for me, as much as I can see that it’s great writing, that unease left me questioning whether I could genuinely say I enjoyed the book. This is why I’m saying it’s personal — it’s less that this book didn’t do it well, it’s that it did it almost too well, and I am not the biggest fan of reading about grooming, and adult-minor relationships (especially when they get sexual, like here). It probably also didn’t help that I went into this book unaware that that was a central plotline. But I don’t think that should stop you reading this book. I rate a lot on how I feel about a book, so of course, something that makes me uncomfortable will get a lower rating. That doesn’t make it a bad book (very obviously the opposite here). If, then, you enjoyed The Animals of Lockwood Manor, or if you’ve never read Jane Healey’s work before, then I would recommend this one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four new friends form a fascination with the drama and darkness of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Ophelia, in particular, captures their imaginations and they take to submerging themselves in the cold lake water and photographing themselves as the famed drowned female. In the summer of 1997, Ruth returns to her childhood home, with her family, including eldest child, Meave, in tow. Meave, with her sickly pallor and auburn hair, is the image of Ophelia herself, and f In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four new friends form a fascination with the drama and darkness of pre-Raphaelite paintings. Ophelia, in particular, captures their imaginations and they take to submerging themselves in the cold lake water and photographing themselves as the famed drowned female. In the summer of 1997, Ruth returns to her childhood home, with her family, including eldest child, Meave, in tow. Meave, with her sickly pallor and auburn hair, is the image of Ophelia herself, and figures from Ruth's past also return to remind her of it. This entire novel evoked such nostalgia for lazy summer days and created such a feeling of delightful yet dark whimsy. These feelings intersected to form a reading experience that was as captivating as it was unsettling. Healey's penmanship also mirrored the dream-like haze of decadence but also decline that featured in the plot. I was enamoured with this split-chronological tale and eager to learn all the secrets its slow unfurling would expose. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Jane Healey, and the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for this opportunity.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    Isn’t the cover of THE OPHELIA GIRLS absolutely gorgeous?! ⁣ 😍😍😍😍😍😍⁣ ⁣ Well, that is literally the only thing that this book has going for it. Slow moving with a lame mystery component, this book really was a struggle because nothing really happened. We get a very very very uncomfortable sexual relationship development and some conversations about art. I wish I actually DNFd this one, but I felt that the slow building developments were going to possibly create a story that I felt could be engaging. Isn’t the cover of THE OPHELIA GIRLS absolutely gorgeous?! ⁣ 😍😍😍😍😍😍⁣ ⁣ Well, that is literally the only thing that this book has going for it. Slow moving with a lame mystery component, this book really was a struggle because nothing really happened. We get a very very very uncomfortable sexual relationship development and some conversations about art. I wish I actually DNFd this one, but I felt that the slow building developments were going to possibly create a story that I felt could be engaging. Alas, I was bored. I would actually recommend not reading this one. 🤭

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    The Ophelia Girls is a sensual, captivating and intoxicating novel about art, illicit desire and the perils and power of being a young woman. In 1973, Ruth Hawkins had lived in a bucolic country house in Kent, England with her family and spent many a long hot summer frolicking through the countryside nearby with friends as they lived through their pre-Raphaelite phase. Drawn to the cold depths of the nearby river running alongside Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with The Ophelia Girls is a sensual, captivating and intoxicating novel about art, illicit desire and the perils and power of being a young woman. In 1973, Ruth Hawkins had lived in a bucolic country house in Kent, England with her family and spent many a long hot summer frolicking through the countryside nearby with friends as they lived through their pre-Raphaelite phase. Drawn to the cold depths of the nearby river running alongside Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. They were lauded as the Ophelia Girls by Ruth’s parents when they discovered the polaroids the group of friends were posing for and were very clearly heavily inspired by pre-Raphaelite paintings and age-old tragic heroines. But by the end of that fateful summer, both love and real tragedy finds them along the banks. Twenty-four years later, a middle-aged Ruth returns to the suffocating, once-grand house she grew up in after the death of her estranged father, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and provides Maeve with the attention she longs for. As a prominent and celebrated photographer, he is offered the guest living quarters and Maeve ends up posing for a series of suggestive portraits with Stuart sworn to secrecy. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free, she yearns for a safe place for her family to heal from their trauma and adversity together. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary? This is an alluring, seductive and beautifully rendered portrait of desire set against the backdrop of a rurally situated Gothic tinged estate that the Hawkins family have owned for many decades and that holds many memories for them. Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters as well as two daughters a generation apart. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lady H

    This was very heady and bleak and melancholy, but I really enjoyed it. It was gorgeously written; I didn't mind the languid pacing because I enjoyed the writing so much. I had two issues that prevented this from being more than a 3.5 stars. My first issue was with the framing device, the POV switch between mother and daughter and present/past and present, but I understand why it was necessary and I think the author handled it as smoothly as she could have, but I'm just not sure it worked as well This was very heady and bleak and melancholy, but I really enjoyed it. It was gorgeously written; I didn't mind the languid pacing because I enjoyed the writing so much. I had two issues that prevented this from being more than a 3.5 stars. My first issue was with the framing device, the POV switch between mother and daughter and present/past and present, but I understand why it was necessary and I think the author handled it as smoothly as she could have, but I'm just not sure it worked as well as it could have had the mother's POV perspective been only in the past. My second issue was that the novel was sometimes very heavy-handed with its ~feminist~ themes; there were a lot of instances where the narrative explicitly said something that really did not need to be said, only intuited. But otherwise I really, really liked this; it's such an easy, quick read (if a depressing one), brimming with complex and unlikable characters and fascinating thematic allusions to classics and mythology. I also really enjoyed the theme of flowers that emerged in both POVs.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    This dual timeline tale of a mother and daughter — in 1973 and 1997 — proved too unsettling for me with a creepy relationship and a troubled mystery. Not my Shakespearean cup of tea. 3 of 5 Stars Pub Date 10 Aug 2021 #TheOpheliaGirls #NetGalley Thanks to the author, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    3.5 stars In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her friends spend their time in the river pretending to be the drowning Ophelia and photographing the beauty and tragedy of the tableau. By summer’s end, one of the Ophelia girls will succumb to real tragedy. Years later, Ruth returns with her own family to the once grand home she grew up in that is now beginning to crumble. Her young twins keep her busy but she cannot settle into a sense of calm even though her oldest daughter, seventeen-year-old Maeve, i 3.5 stars In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her friends spend their time in the river pretending to be the drowning Ophelia and photographing the beauty and tragedy of the tableau. By summer’s end, one of the Ophelia girls will succumb to real tragedy. Years later, Ruth returns with her own family to the once grand home she grew up in that is now beginning to crumble. Her young twins keep her busy but she cannot settle into a sense of calm even though her oldest daughter, seventeen-year-old Maeve, is in cancer remission and can be a typical teen finally. Ruth’s childhood friend Stuart, now an adventurous war photographer, has also returned to the countryside and is showing Maeve the attention she craves. But this dangerous flirtation causes old secrets and obsessions to rise to the surface. Alternating between two fateful summers in the lives of mother and daughter, The Ophelia Girls is a coming of age novel with a gothic vibe; romanticizing youth, obsession, desire, and the flirtation and thrill of secrets with the complicated bonds of family and their influence over our lives. Thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Ophelia Girls is scheduled for release on August 10, 2021. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elissa Sloan

    Deliciously atmospheric and brilliantly constructed, The Ophelia Girls tugs at the reader from the very first page until its satisfying finish. Engrossing and rich in imagery, Jane Healey writes the way dreams feel. I loved it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝑰𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒎𝒚 𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 𝒇𝒊𝒓𝒔𝒕 𝒇𝒆𝒍𝒕 𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒆, 𝒎𝒚 𝒐𝒘𝒏. I don’t normally mention the ending of a novel early in my review, but this one spoke to me. It was a moment of strength, of taking power back and yet nothing explosive nor out of the ordinary. A quiet moment loaded with meaning at an exhibition. It is the summer of 1973, teenagers Ruth, Joan, Linda, Sarah and Camille spend their free days photographing each other floating along the frigid waters via my blog:https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝑰𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒎𝒚 𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 𝒇𝒊𝒓𝒔𝒕 𝒇𝒆𝒍𝒕 𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒆, 𝒎𝒚 𝒐𝒘𝒏. I don’t normally mention the ending of a novel early in my review, but this one spoke to me. It was a moment of strength, of taking power back and yet nothing explosive nor out of the ordinary. A quiet moment loaded with meaning at an exhibition. It is the summer of 1973, teenagers Ruth, Joan, Linda, Sarah and Camille spend their free days photographing each other floating along the frigid waters of a river in the woods, striking tragic poses. Draped in ethereal dresses, embracing the cold lick of the river, there is power and beauty in the art they are creating. Flirting with death as they imitate the drowning of Ophelia, they become 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘱𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘢 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭𝘴. It is the one place they are free of the restrictions the world and their parents put on them. A place away from the gaze of teenage boys, who would never understand why this world they’ve created empowers them and would only lust after the erotic scene. No one is as free to be her natural self as Ruth, unlike her friends whose families summer at the surrounding houses, she is a permanent resident. A “well off” resident, raised by her strict, emotionally distant father who pressures her to be more of a lady, less of a tomboy and think about the future. Without her mother to guide her, there doesn’t seem to be much warmth nor understanding in her home, not a lick of loving attention from her father since she turned nine. In the river, she can escape the person he wishes she could be, and instead seek solace in the unique sisterhood they’ve created. It is also the only place her body comes alive, and belongs to her. It is in the arms of the river where they find glorious abandon. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘱𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘢 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭𝘴 are blooming, friendships forming tight as knots but the world and it’s tragedies isn’t as far away as the girls believe. Soon, they won’t have to feign tragic airs. Stuart lives with his dad, the groundskeeper working for Ruth’s father, when he isn’t back in London with his mother. Straight away he is enamored of Ruth. Her father is grooming him for a career in law, naturally she is jealous of their time together, longing for Stuart’s undivided attention. Lacking the courage to confide to her father that she wishes to study art, there is comfort in Stuart’s friendship, always admiring and supporting her dreams. She doesn’t love him though, not like that. He is present that tragic summer that begins with the first photograph, taken by Ruth. There are secrets and confusions Ruth herself doesn’t understand, a death that follows her twenty-four years into the future, now married to Alex, the friend she and Stuart made at university. Their lives took separate paths, Stuart becoming a celebrated war photographer and Ruth and Alex married with three children- their six-year-old twins Michael and Iza and their seventeen-year-old daughter, Maeve. They are spending the summer back at Ruth’s home, after Maeve’s grandfather’s death, a place with twenty-seven rooms in the countryside which will be good for her. Maeve knows more about the shadow of death than most seventeen-year-old girls, having emerged from cancer. She has been schooled on the fragility of life and the struggle to see another day more than even most adults have faced. She may be in remission, but the fears, habits of illness seem to follow her with each waking day. Darkness isn’t so easy to shake off, how do you learn to live again and trust that the next day is waiting when you lay your head down and sleep? She knows far too much about how easily it all can end, how tenuous the link between life and death truly is. How can she fathom her own future, when it wasn’t promised before? What if she comes out of remission? What if she can’t build back her strength? Still so much a child, robbed of the freedom healthy children are afforded, and yet on the cusp of womanhood, she longs for something, what she can’t name nor explain. She is back at the place her mother had a whole other life, and with it a friend named Stuart who is about to turn their world upside down. He is just the eye she needs as a witness to being alive, someone who she can become someone else with, not just a former sick girl nor an average teenager but someone coming into herself, rooted in a mind and body desperate to bloom. A solid, beautiful thing. She also is beginning to push away from her parents, as the young do, as a means to discover who they are as an individual. Not quite a child, not yet an adult, but nestled in that space between. That long ago summer, Camille once asked “How long do you think it would take for someone to come looking for us if we stayed here forever?”, the truth being that a part of Ruth has remained rooted there, had never stepped out of the river. Guilty over what happened, unsure how much of the cross is hers to bear, she feels forever underwater. There is a heaviness she carries, and now that her family has watched their girl suffer and heal, a miracle in and of itself, it’s hard to believe misfortune has left their door. Having spent every moment attentive to Maeve’s need, watchful over her health, terrified of losing her, she has a hard time letting go and believing they are done with the worst. She knows that you can’t stop the hand of fate, that you can’t outwit death. Her husband Alex’s reminder about their daughter, that “she’s fine” echoing in her head isn’t enough to comfort her. Now returned to her family home, the past is back and Stuart with it, his presence a reminder of who she once was and making her question the woman she tries her hardest, at present, to be. How has she become such a liar? Something shockingly tragic happened one summer twenty-four years ago, and something transformative will happen again, but will it also have an air of tragedy? Of death? What does it mean for Maeve’s marriage, her friendship with Stuart, and more importantly, her bond with her beautiful, hungry daughter? How could she have forgotten how famished the young are and ready to fill themselves with the first experience that presents itself, often dangerous and forbidden? Some moments change entire lives, no one understands this better than her. There is a choice, to embrace your desires or deny them. Maybe Maeve isn’t the only one who has to figure out who she is and what she wants, nor is she the only one that needs to leave the shadow of death behind. This is an intelligent novel about young girls and what they kill off in themselves for acceptance. It also about where they find power and how they decide to move forward, what they chose to build their lives upon. The most important story, I think, is between Ruth and her daughter Maeve. It is through her own daughter’s choices, the exploration of her budding sexuality, that she must face herself. Why does she feel like she is failing Maeve, as she has failed another before, dangerously so? There is also abuse of power and manipulation, vulnerability and misguided ideas. Innocence, awakenings, love, shame, guilt, confusion, and the journey into adulthood filled with secrets. Girls as victims of their desires, or the masters of them. Powerful stuff here. Yes, read it! Publication Date: August 10th, 2021 Mariner Books

  12. 4 out of 5

    audrey

    Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an eARC of “The Ophelia Girls” by Jane Healey through NetGalley for me to read and give an honest review! Jane Healey’s eloquent novel, “The Ophelia Girls'', is full of hauntingly beautiful and suspenseful moments from seventeen-year-old Meave’s present and her mother, Ruth’s, past as they both navigate their world as budding young women. Healey does an outstanding job alternating between the two fateful summers-- both taking place at the famil Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an eARC of “The Ophelia Girls” by Jane Healey through NetGalley for me to read and give an honest review! Jane Healey’s eloquent novel, “The Ophelia Girls'', is full of hauntingly beautiful and suspenseful moments from seventeen-year-old Meave’s present and her mother, Ruth’s, past as they both navigate their world as budding young women. Healey does an outstanding job alternating between the two fateful summers-- both taking place at the family’s grand summer house. While some moments might be unsettling due to the nature of the relationship between Stuart and Meave, I felt as though it told a truly complex and profound story exploring the relationship between mothers and daughters, clandestine desires, and what it means to grow up as a young woman. I found myself captivated by the fanciful but prudent storytelling, unable to put the book down, always wanting to know not only what tragedy occurred during the summer of 1973, but also how the events of Meave’s present summer would culminate. Overall, I thought it was a deep-seated tale, one whose aura reminded me of that of Jeffrey Eugenides’s “The Virgin Suicides”.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rin

    Thank you so much Netgally for granting me an ARC. Review to come soon on my goodreads and Bookstagram page

  14. 4 out of 5

    Saimon (ZanyAnomaly)

    honestly, i trust my twitter oomfs book recs more than people from any other platform. and thats that. now gimme this book *grabby hands*

  15. 5 out of 5

    elena

    Oh fuck I have an arc of this and it's about to come out. I cannot start ANOTHER book I cannot I will not I have to actually finish something okay pray for me Oh fuck I have an arc of this and it's about to come out. I cannot start ANOTHER book I cannot I will not I have to actually finish something okay pray for me

  16. 4 out of 5

    Summer Reads

    First and foremost if your not familiar with the pre-raphaelite brotherhood and their muses, google it. The paintings and the story is very interesting in itself. The Ophelia Girls is about a mother Ruth, and her daughter Maeve. Ruth reflects on the summer of 1973 when her friends and she spend the days recreating famous paintings from the pre-ralphaelite models. After a childhood friend comes to stay with her and her family, it brings back it brings back long held secrets from that summer. Maev First and foremost if your not familiar with the pre-raphaelite brotherhood and their muses, google it. The paintings and the story is very interesting in itself. The Ophelia Girls is about a mother Ruth, and her daughter Maeve. Ruth reflects on the summer of 1973 when her friends and she spend the days recreating famous paintings from the pre-ralphaelite models. After a childhood friend comes to stay with her and her family, it brings back it brings back long held secrets from that summer. Maeve, Ruth’s 17 year old daughter is recovering from a terrible illness. Maeve is also discovering who she is and which path to go into becoming a woman. The story switches from Maeve’s point of view and Ruth’s with dual timelines, alternating between the present(1997) and the past 1973. This story full absorbed my attention and I felt as if I was physically there as the story unfolded. The Ophelia Girls is a slow burning novel filled with vivid imagery and symbols. Jane Healey’s writing is very unique from anything I've read before. I loved the incorporation of Art into this novel. Art history has always fascinated me. I also loved the Shakespeare rephrences as well as the nod to Persephone and Ophelia. The only issue I had with this novel is the grooming of a minor by an adult. Personally, I have a hard time getting into books that contain adult-minor sexual relationships(even if the relationship is consensual between both people). The novel does give off a sense of dread and foreboding as the relationship unfolds though.I also feel like persons who are not familiar with the pre-ralphaelite muses, shakesperean themes, and the stories of Persephone and Ophelia will have a difficult time understanding parts of this book. Overall I did enjoy this poetic, whimsical, and at times beautiful story. The Ophelia Girls is definitely one of the most original books I've ever read. After reading The Ophelia Girls I am dying to read Jane Healey’s previous novel, The Animals of Lockwood Manor. Many thanks to Mariner books for the gifted copy!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura Jannink

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had high expectations when I read the blurb and saw the stunning paperback cover containing lots of gold, plants and beautiful flowery details. The story had a promising timeframe (a sweltering hot summer in the 70s) and revolved around a group of teenage girls taking pictures of each other lying in the river dressed up as Persephone or Ophelia. Combine that with family secrets and a mysterious death of one of these "Ophelia Girls"... I was hooked. What the story delivered, however, were dull I had high expectations when I read the blurb and saw the stunning paperback cover containing lots of gold, plants and beautiful flowery details. The story had a promising timeframe (a sweltering hot summer in the 70s) and revolved around a group of teenage girls taking pictures of each other lying in the river dressed up as Persephone or Ophelia. Combine that with family secrets and a mysterious death of one of these "Ophelia Girls"... I was hooked. What the story delivered, however, were dull conversations between teenage girls, lengthy and often irrelevant descriptions, and a very slow plot that didn't turn out to be so exciting or mysterious after all. The revelation of the mystery was very underwhelming to me. I was pleased to see that the story included references to art (Waterhouse, Pre-Raphaelite paintings), literature (Shakespeare's Hamlet and Ophelia) and Greek mythology (Hades, Persephone). These references tied into the plot, but there was nothing more to them than that. Don't expect depth or profound commentary on any of the themes either (e.g. grooming, motherhood, family dynamics, identity and young womanhood). I finished the entire book (358 pages), but I didn't enjoy myself in the process. None of the characters were likeable, for example. As a result, there was no point to an epilogue in my opinion, because I couldn't care less how the characters were doing. The book focused a lot on descriptions of the group of girls in the 70s and Maeve in the 90s pretending to be Ophelia girls, which became repetitive and boring. I also figured out the mystery early on the book (the fact that Ruth didn't love neither Stuart nor husband Alex and had something against the scent of their perspiration gave it away for me). I wish there was something positive to be said for the climax and ending of the book, but to me it came across as overly dramatic and the revelation of other secrets were underwhelming. Based on all this, I personally wouldn't pick up another book by Healey any time soon, but I can recommend The Ophelia Girls to someone who enjoys lengthy descriptions of who says what (no matter how mundane) and what the surroundings look like in minute detail. If characterisation isn't very important to you, you're OK with having no likeable characters in a book, and you don't mind switching perspectives per chapter and a slow, meandering plot, I'm sure you'd enjoy The Ophelia Girls.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I seem to be running into deeply dreamy, atmospheric pieces lately and I'm not mad. The Ophelia Girls is a dual timeline adult novel that glides back and forth to an idyllic and tragic summer of a woman named Ruth and, later, her 17-year-old daughter, Maeve who is recovering from leukemia. The imagery in this was absolutely stunning. Harkening back to the Shakspearean story of Ophelia, there is symbolism at every turn. Ruth and her friends when they were young took great care in their clothi ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I seem to be running into deeply dreamy, atmospheric pieces lately and I'm not mad. The Ophelia Girls is a dual timeline adult novel that glides back and forth to an idyllic and tragic summer of a woman named Ruth and, later, her 17-year-old daughter, Maeve who is recovering from leukemia. The imagery in this was absolutely stunning. Harkening back to the Shakspearean story of Ophelia, there is symbolism at every turn. Ruth and her friends when they were young took great care in their clothing, the choosing of flowers, the way their bodies were positioned in the water, etc in order to create gorgeous and lasting images. The writing was lyrical but not overtly so, and I enjoyed the flow of the story and the characters introduced throughout the way. I wish we had gotten more information on them as the novel came to a close. With all the the various (I won't spoil) hurts and wants, I wondered what life was like for them after the fact. I do wish that we knew who's POV was who's as the chapters turned. Sometimes, I was having to flip back to see where we came from, other times it was obvious. It just depended. I was uncomfortable with Stuart and Maeve's relationship. The age-gap itself was its own thing, but also the power-imbalance of a girl recently recovering from a potentially deadly disease and a fully grown man who seemed to carry a torch for her mother at some point....not my thing. This novel is full of aching sadness, it breathes from between each page and reaches out to grip you when you don't expect it. You definitely come away feeling something, even if it's not what you wanted. *My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for gifting me with this arc in exchange for my honest review.*

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This was not the book for me. I couldn’t connect with Maeve at all and found her relationship/fixation with Stuart disturbing way before the ending. Taking the Shakespearean Ophelia and a mother daughter relationship triangle was a disturbing dynamic. Given Maeve was the primary focus of the book, sadly and regretfully, I just didn’t like her at all.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Demelda Penkitty

    In the summer of 1973, teenage Ruth and her four friends are obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a little bit obsessed with each other. They spend the scorching summer days in the river by Ruth's grand family home, pretending to be the drowning Ophelia and recreating tableaus of other tragic mythical heroines. But by the end of the summer, real tragedy has found them. Twenty-four years later, Ruth is a wife and mother of three children, and moves her family into her still-grand, but now s In the summer of 1973, teenage Ruth and her four friends are obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a little bit obsessed with each other. They spend the scorching summer days in the river by Ruth's grand family home, pretending to be the drowning Ophelia and recreating tableaus of other tragic mythical heroines. But by the end of the summer, real tragedy has found them. Twenty-four years later, Ruth is a wife and mother of three children, and moves her family into her still-grand, but now somewhat dilapidated, childhood home following the death of her father. Her seventeen-year-old daughter, Maeve, is officially in remission and having been discharged from hospital can finally start acting like a 'normal' teenager with the whole summer ahead of her. It's just the five of them until Stuart, a handsome photographer and old friend of her parents, comes to stay. And there’s something about Stuart that makes Maeve feel more alive than all of her life-saving treatments put together . . . Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman. The story of two summers weave seamlessly throughout this book, told by the equally vivid versions of a mother and her daughter. A character driven novel, The Ophelia Girls is rich in symbolism with references to art, literature and mythology with vivid characterisations. This book has a sinewy, viseral style that draws us into the reverie-like world of the river and its dangers and, like the characters it has so bewitched, never lets us go, it’s powerful stuff. The prose is intoxicating with its symbolic decadence, teenage desire, and description of the somewhat gothic home. There is lots of foreshadowing and an unnerving undertone clearly inspired by gothic literature. I really enjoyed the story and although I kind of knew where it was going the ending was still amazing and the revelations still chilling. This book is beautiful, ethereal and evocative. I was utterly absorbed in the haunting, lyrical writing. Highly recommended Trigger Warnings* *grooming, adult-minor relationship, drowning, homophobia, cancer, death*

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm Extraordinaire

    DNF @50% I tried, I really did, but life is too short to continue reading a book that feels like it is a slog to get through. I found this story to be SO slow and boring. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I'm just one reviewer in a sea of many though, so look read other people's reviews before writing this one off! **ARC Via NetGalley** DNF @50% I tried, I really did, but life is too short to continue reading a book that feels like it is a slog to get through. I found this story to be SO slow and boring. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I'm just one reviewer in a sea of many though, so look read other people's reviews before writing this one off! **ARC Via NetGalley**

  22. 5 out of 5

    Trina Dixon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Really difficult to review this book, although the writing style was very good, I didnt empathise with any of the characters, disturbing storyline with Stuart having a crush on Ruth in 1973, and then in 1997 embarking on an affair with her daughter Maeve. For Ruth in 1973, her summer friendships which ended in tragedy was written about all the way through the book and then touched upon briefly at the end. I was also confused as she referred to 2 people dying but there was only 1 death?? Sadly no Really difficult to review this book, although the writing style was very good, I didnt empathise with any of the characters, disturbing storyline with Stuart having a crush on Ruth in 1973, and then in 1997 embarking on an affair with her daughter Maeve. For Ruth in 1973, her summer friendships which ended in tragedy was written about all the way through the book and then touched upon briefly at the end. I was also confused as she referred to 2 people dying but there was only 1 death?? Sadly not for me Thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review

  23. 5 out of 5

    day

    Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey for an honest review! Two eventful summers are slowly unraveled at the seams as we find out secrets that are as tragic and they are haunting. In 1973, we follow Ruth, who is a part of a small group, or sisterhood, that they accurately name the Ophelia Girls. This tumultuous group finds an escape at a lake from their seemingly mundane lives, with a camera glued to their hands. Little do they know that this fleet Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey for an honest review! Two eventful summers are slowly unraveled at the seams as we find out secrets that are as tragic and they are haunting. In 1973, we follow Ruth, who is a part of a small group, or sisterhood, that they accurately name the Ophelia Girls. This tumultuous group finds an escape at a lake from their seemingly mundane lives, with a camera glued to their hands. Little do they know that this fleeting summer also contains secrets that will infiltrate their lives long after the temperature begins to drop. In the present day we follow Ruth’s daughter Maeve, the summer after she’s in remission from cancer. Much like her mother, she struggles to find her own identity, one that isn’t solely dependent on her being sick. When the past walks through their doors with a handsome and mysterious smile, their two summers collide- tethered by someone who has questionable intentions. Will the present be as consequential as the past? Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey was such a wonderfully composed novel. Healey tackles some very uncomfortable topics in a way that is both intriguing and, at times, hard to read. I especially enjoyed reading about life after cancer. The burden Maeve carries so deeply within her, as she thinks upon how her parent’s marital problems seemingly revolve around her illness. It’s especially compelling to read her, at times, missing being ill and the attention that came along with it. Maeve’s POV was frustrating, heartbreaking, and for lack of a better word, incredibly sad. Healey understands humanity at its core, bleeding the past into the present with fluidity that encapsulates the lasting impacts of trauma in an outstandingly realistic way. This story will stick with me long after I finish!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    I went into this book knowing very little about what it was actually about. The short description said something to the effect of a daughter's life colliding with her mother's past. I had no idea how they were going to come together, and I didn't quite expect the way it happened. I'm giving this 4 stars because the story is beautifully written, especially the portions that look back at Ruth's past with the Ophelia Girls at the river. I'm still trying to work out my feelings on the story in gener I went into this book knowing very little about what it was actually about. The short description said something to the effect of a daughter's life colliding with her mother's past. I had no idea how they were going to come together, and I didn't quite expect the way it happened. I'm giving this 4 stars because the story is beautifully written, especially the portions that look back at Ruth's past with the Ophelia Girls at the river. I'm still trying to work out my feelings on the story in general. When he is first introduced to the story, I got the impression that Stuart was someone I was supposed to like. I was not expecting him to be a predator, although I suppose that's the way the most effective predators operate. His involvement made the present-day portions extremely uncomfortable. I felt like the end of the book was a little bit too "wrapped up". (Mild spoilers ahead.) It would've made more sense in my mind if the conflict between Ruth and her father had remained unresolved. If he died without ever speaking to her about why he wanted to cut ties, it's a little too "neat" to then have Stuart come in and basically tell her why he disappeared. Having the reason be that he was gay and didn't like her being a lesbian... didn't make sense to me. Overall, the story was captivating. It was enjoyable, minus the creep factor with Stuart.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia Alderton

    I was lucky enough to get a proof...the name helped! I think this is the first time I have found it hard to review a book. I think I am torn on whether this is a 4 star or 3 star in my book collection. The story takes place in the summer of 1973 and the summer of 1997, both are hot, humid and heady. Ruth in 1973 begins spending the summer in the river with friends recreating pre-Raphaelite paintings, mainly Ophelia. During these times they also explore their sexuality and test their relationships I was lucky enough to get a proof...the name helped! I think this is the first time I have found it hard to review a book. I think I am torn on whether this is a 4 star or 3 star in my book collection. The story takes place in the summer of 1973 and the summer of 1997, both are hot, humid and heady. Ruth in 1973 begins spending the summer in the river with friends recreating pre-Raphaelite paintings, mainly Ophelia. During these times they also explore their sexuality and test their relationships. Something clearly goes very wrong during one of these recreations but we don't know what. In 1997, Ruth is now a mother to a daughter recovering from Cancer; Maeve. A friend of Ruth's from 1973 comes to stay with them and the situation gets very uncomfortable and troubling. There is desire, infatuation and wrong doing and therefore, naturally, there is suspense, intrigue and mystery. Three stars seems harsh but 4 stars seems high.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Jane

    During the heat of summer in 1973, Ruth and her friends become obsessed with the image of the drowning Ophelia. They spend their days photographing each other in the river until one night, when everything goes wrong… Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to her fathers house with her husband and children, including her teenage daughter, Maeve. It’s supposed to be a summer of healing and renewal but when an old friend comes to visit, it seems that history is poised to repeat itself… I LOVED this b During the heat of summer in 1973, Ruth and her friends become obsessed with the image of the drowning Ophelia. They spend their days photographing each other in the river until one night, when everything goes wrong… Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to her fathers house with her husband and children, including her teenage daughter, Maeve. It’s supposed to be a summer of healing and renewal but when an old friend comes to visit, it seems that history is poised to repeat itself… I LOVED this book. It’s tense, intricately woven and the sense of setting is so strong that you can feel the press of the sun and the sting of river water against your skin. It’s about secrets and lies, mothers and daughters and the power and the danger that comes with being a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood. I couldn’t put this book down and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. It comes out on 27th July and I’d highly recommend grabbing a copy - if you like your summer reads to have an edge to them, this is the book for you! Huge thank you to @bookbreakuk for this gifted ARC copy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    Kind of disturbing and creepy. The story goes back and forth between 1997 and 1973, from Maeve's POV and her mother's POV. Well written, but I didn't enjoy it like I thought I would. Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC. All opinions are my own. Kind of disturbing and creepy. The story goes back and forth between 1997 and 1973, from Maeve's POV and her mother's POV. Well written, but I didn't enjoy it like I thought I would. Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grace W

    Review to come but please look up trigger warnings prior to reading this, will post those with the full review

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I was absolutely enchanted and mesmerized by this lovely novel! Initially, I was drawn to it as I loved teaching Hamlet to my AP seniors and Ophelia is such an enigmatic, tragic heroine. Taking place in the past and present (70's and 90's), it tells the story of Ruth and her college-age summer girlfriends who were obsessed with taking photos of each other in the river, dressed in long dresses with flowers in their hair; people called them the "Ophelia girls." But we realize something sinister ha I was absolutely enchanted and mesmerized by this lovely novel! Initially, I was drawn to it as I loved teaching Hamlet to my AP seniors and Ophelia is such an enigmatic, tragic heroine. Taking place in the past and present (70's and 90's), it tells the story of Ruth and her college-age summer girlfriends who were obsessed with taking photos of each other in the river, dressed in long dresses with flowers in their hair; people called them the "Ophelia girls." But we realize something sinister happened that last summer....Fast forward to Ruth's present with her husband, Alex, seventeen-year-old daughter Maeve, (who's battled leukemia) six-year-old twins, and old friend Stuart who knew the couple in college (and was obsessed with Ruth even though she didn't return his feelings). Things go from bad to worse as we see Stuart now drawn to Maeve who looks strikingly similar to her mother at that age, Ruth who can't seem to connect with her teenage daughter, and Alex who is mainly concerned with his job which leaves Ruth to drown her sorrows in alcohol. Secrets from the past come to light and although we know this can't end well, I was somehow compassionate with each of the women as I saw how much they desired to be both seen and heard! Healey deals with so many relevant themes here: sexuality, guilt, obsession, and ultimately the ability to overcome your past and channel your inner strength to find the life you deserve and live that to its fullest without letting the past mistakes cloud your future! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara Murphy

    Every bit as haunting, sensual, and beautiful as pre-Raphaelite paintings ... this one is going to stay with me for a long time.

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