“The Secret History” meets “The Craft”
by Katie Lowe
In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder. After an accident involving her Dad and sister, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town, which has an unpleasant history as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet quickly finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex – led by their charismatic art teacher, Annabel. While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals – warning the girls off the topic, describing it as little more than mythology – the girls start to believe that magic is real, and that they can harness it. But when the body of a former member of the society – Robin’s best friend, with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance – is found dead on campus nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself.
Katie Lowe has an MPhil in Literature and Modernity and a BA(Hons) in English, plus a half-completed PhD on the influence of the rise of the far-right on Franco-American literature of the 1930s-50s. In 2012, Katie started her blog, Fat Girl PhD – writing about body image, feminism and health, and finding an audience across outlets including the Guardian, Independent, and the BBC, as well as a number of media in the US, Canada and Australia. She averages 20,000 hits a month.