Given its beauty, intrigue and mystery it’s rather amazing that the Grotto has never provided the setting for a novel – until now! Written by Sonia Overall, author of the critically-acclaimed A Likeness, The Realm of Shells is set in fashionable Margate in 1835 and follows the schemes, betrayals and disappointments of the respectable Newlove family from the perspective of its youngest member, Frances.
At the age of eight Frances finds herself thrown into a new life in Margate, her northern family objects of curiosity to the people of Kent. Her evangelist parents set about running private schools, which steadily gain in standing and respectability. All is peaceable enough – until the chance discovery of an underground grotto exposes them to temptation, manipulation and the wilfully unscrupulous dealings of their neighbours. The discovery of the underground realm of shells heralds the uncovering of some unpleasant family truths – and the dark, stark realities of the adult world.
‘The whole novel has that stamp of energy and originality which marks out Sonia Overall as extremely unusual and talented.’ Margaret Forster
The Realm of Shells is published in hardback by Fourth Estate on 3 January 2006.