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The Telling

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  593 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Rachel travels to her mother's isolated country house in order to put her mother's affairs in order. However, along with the memories of her mother, Rachel feels something else, a presence. She grows ever more convinced that the house holds a message for her. Can the ghosts of the past be nudging their way into the present?
Paperback, 358 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Portobello Books
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Oct 14, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok
Hmmmm...well I finished it. The story focusses on two main characters. Rachel in the present day who is clearing out her mothers cottage following her death and Lizzy who lived in the cottage in the 1800's. I had no idea what Rachel was going on about half the time and found it hard to connect with her at all. She basically moped about and was a total pain in the arse to her husband and child and basically anyone else she spoke to. She picked up on some ghostly force within the cottage and all o ...more
Jackie Molloy
May 23, 2012 Jackie Molloy rated it really liked it
This book is two stories overlaying each other about two young women from different eras, both struggling with love and loss in vastly different circumstances.It is intensely detailed and as such unfolds slowly and draws you in. the narrative is internalised so the story is told through the two girls observations and feelings. The Chartist movement which Elizabeth becomes drawn into is very interesting as an historical event. In gentle ways the author covers many emotional issues from post natal ...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Telling by Jo Baker is a recommended, atmospheric ghost story that alternates between two time periods, contemporary and Gothic.

Rachel's mother has died and she has went to pack up and clean out the house called Reading Room Cottage that her parents had purchased for a vacation home for their retirement. She had planned to get the chore done quickly, especially since she left her husband Mark, and a new baby at home, but soon realizes that it is going to take longer. Two centuries before thi
Jo Barton
Aug 19, 2009 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a good book this turned out to be.
A seemless dual time narrative that tells the story of present day Rachel, struggling with post-natal depression and her mother's death.Intertwined with that of 19C Elizabeth who gets caught up with the Chartist movement, and a man who questions all the values she holds to be true.
Beautifully written in places with a narrative that just keeps you turning the pages.I really enjoyed it.
Jul 16, 2012 Katrina rated it really liked it
My favourite parts of this book were undoubtedly the historical chapters. I was literally wailing while I read the end. My fellow commuters must have thought I was having a small fit. Would definitely recommend, but not to anyone who has lost a loved one recently. It hits very close to home.
Dec 20, 2015 Antonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, or rather both of the stories — one in the mid 1800s, the other more or less contemporary: two women, living generations apart, whose lives intersect in barely discernible, and somewhat spooky, ways. Rachel, a young mother whose own mother has recently died, sets out to pack up and sell her parents’ country house in a small village. About 150 years earlier, the cottage had been the home of Elizabeth (Lizzy), the eldest daughter in a family of basket weavers. Earl ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
My problem with this novel is I dove into the Telling expecting an eerie ghost story and instead I ended up reading a historical fiction. I enjoyed Elizabeth's story taking place in the 19th century, and felt the tale would have been better told had Baker left out Rachel. The 3 stars is based on Elizabeth and her family alone, because if I factor the present day story in, then I disparage the well written parts of the novel. It is my understanding that the haunting is meant to be just at the edg ...more
Aug 22, 2015 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gr-giveaways
As one reviewer wrote -"A Treat to Read" - Daily Mail (London) I agree whole-heartedly. This is not a ghost story as a reader might expect. This was a beautiful story about two young women, one in modern day London and one in the mid 1800's whose lives intersect at a cottage in the countryside of England. Rachel and Elizabeth both know loss and the author goes back and forth between the chapters acquainting us with both characters. Is Elizabeth haunting Rachel? Why? The author does a great job o ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Michele rated it liked it
At first I didn't understand what was going on, but realized, after reading the back cover, that this is really two stories interwoven, with one chapter told from a present-day woman's standpoint and the next told from the standpoint of a different character, a woman who lives in the mid-19th century. I'm not sure the chapters start out alternating, though, which may have lead to my confusion. In any case, I found the nexus between the two stories to be too feeble to really pull off the story. I ...more
May 24, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If a house were to truly be haunted, this is how I imagine it would be. A powerful and intense read. Baker received some criticism for her descriptions--that they were lengthy. I found them to be lush and beautiful and placed me immediately next to the character...until the very end when I had to rush ahead to find out what was going to happen next. Then I went back and read every lovely word. Favorite quote:
"Difficulties became like stones in mid-stream; I slid around them, flowed over them; th
Donna Shirley
If you enjoy historical fiction, then I recommend The Telling for Elizabeth's story and the information about the Chartist movement. I enjoy Jo Baker's historical writing and found Elizabeth a compelling character. The contemporary story line with Kate at times felt like someone was running their fingernails across the chalkboard. Kate, at times, was too frenetic for me. I realize she was emotionally distraught, I'm not totally devoid of compassion; but I just wanted to grab her by the shoulders ...more
I was really looking forward to this book. I thought it would be a good October read, since it's supposed to be a ghost story. It was hardly a ghost story. Or at least, it wasn't scary or eerie at all. The structure - parallel stories of Rachel and Elizabeth - took away from the ghostly potential of the book. I understand that Baker was trying to build suspense, but it felt forced. The story took a while to really get going but then it was over too soon, and for that I'd give it 3.5 stars.
Feb 12, 2014 Jule rated it really liked it
The story was enjoyable but not riveting. I gave this book 4 stars on the strength of the author's writing - her style is exquisite and the minute descriptions of nature, colours, feelings were almost poetry. I found myself highlighting dozens of paragraphs to reread later.
Aug 12, 2015 Bettie☯ marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Wanda
This could be a goodie to consider for the end of October.
May 13, 2017 Genee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest it wasn't what I quite expected but I did enjoy the book. I would have given the book more stars if the book focused solely on Elizabeth and her story. I couldn't get into Rachel's side of the story. Again, I did enjoy the book just not what I expected. If you're expecting a scary ghost story this really isn't that type of book.
Did not finish. This the second book I've attempted by Jo Baker. They always sound good but are sooooo slow and never seem to go anywhere.
Rita Goodall-Mitchell
I listened to the audiobook. The story was fantastic and the narrator superb
Sep 19, 2013 Linda rated it it was ok
Rachel is a young woman who has lost her mother and now she must clear out the summer cottage that belonged to her parents. While at the cottage she feels there is someone or something there other than herself. She hears a hum and gets goosebumps at odd times. She has emotional issues due to her mother's death and the birth of her daughter shortly after that. She is not coping well and it is affecting her marriage.

Elizabeth's story takes place in the cottage long before Rachel's folks have boug
Jan 23, 2016 Mandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quite enjoyed this and it’s a pleasurable enough read, but it does have some faults. It’s dual-time narrative, a device that needs to be cleverly handled to make it work, and in this case Jo Baker doesn’t quite pull it off as the connection between the two strands is too contrived. There’s no organic link between them. The story concerns modern-day Rachel, a depressed young wife and mother, who has to go and clear out her dead parents’ country cottage. Whilst there she “senses” someone in the ...more
Pamela ciccolini
I was excited to read another novel by this author Jo Baker because I loved Longbourn but must say I was disappointed. This story dragged on and I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. Its basis was interesting regarding the Chartist movement in England during the 1840's. This movements aim was to gain political rights and influence for the working classes. Its members suffered mass arrests, slow trials, transportation and imprisonment with hard labor. The story is told through the live ...more
Sue Price
May 22, 2015 Sue Price rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't what I thought it would be, I was expecting a ghost story but infact got much more than I bargained for. The telling is an extremely detailed and intricate book with 2 stories running parallel to each other, Rachel in the present day and Elizabeth in the past. I won't say too much about the plot as it would be a great shame to ruin it for the reader. The historical parts of the book enthralled me, I was intrigued and shocked both in equal measure at the hardships that the family ...more
I loved Longbourn, and I noted in my review that it took about half the book for things to really start. I'm 51% in to The Telling and nothing has happened beyond a few packed-up boxes and a lot of whining in the modern story, matched with a lot of laundry and a little forbidden reading in the Victorian timeline. Baker writes beautifully, but I don't need to read any more about the baby's sweaty curls against her soft cheek, or the scent of grass on the breeze through the parlor window. It is pa ...more
Sep 04, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rachel goes to her parent’s countryside cottage, the one they barely had the chance to move into before her mother died. Her father does not have the heart to empty it out and put it up for sale, so it is up to Rachel. This is difficult for Rachel, because her mother’s death is not only a tremendous loss for her, but her death coincided with the birth of her cherished daughter, the granddaughter her mother never met. As she stays in the cottage, she feels another presence, a ghost from the past, ...more
Apr 13, 2015 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through the Goodreads First Read Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading THE TELLING by Jo Baker. It wasn't what I expected, though. Actually it was two story lines thinly joined together by taking place at the same location but in different times. It wasn't really a ghost story, though the modern story character sensed the presence of the the woman from the past.
Personally, I feel the story of Lizzy, who first lived in the house, was much more compelli
Marilyn Belsham
Disappointing. I was expecting a thriller or at least some spook to this "ghost story" which really was lacking a ghost. The modern day story of Rachel was super blah and I didn't understand her motivations or her how she just "knew" stuff about the "haunting". More than half of the story of Rachel is her half heartedly packing boxes and then having her focus drift off to stare into the "heavy air of the room". ???

The historical part of the story was much better and fleshed out. It felt authent
Oct 29, 2013 Ashley rated it really liked it
In some ways this read like a dress rehearsal for Longbourn--some of the same turns of phrase, even some of the same actions on the part of the characters, and I found the present-day parts of the narrative much less compelling than the nineteenth-century story; indeed, I wished more than once during the reading that she'd spent more time on Elizabeth's narrative. That said, I loved the way that it took a page or two to realize which character's voice was speaking in the opening of each chapter, ...more
Apr 10, 2015 Brooke rated it it was ok
2 1/2 stars

I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had high hopes for this book, but I felt that the description of this book was a bit misleading. It's not a ghost story at all, it's more of two stories that are barely interwoven. The present day story follows Rachel, who is cleaning out a cottage her parents owned; she is dealing with the death of her mother and the birth of her child. The other story takes place in the mid 1800s and involves a young woman named Eliza
Apr 06, 2015 Cince rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I received this novel in a Goodread's Firstread Giveaway.

The Telling is the stories of two different women in two different time periods. There is the servant girl from hundreds of years ago caught up in a stark reality where the rich, or those in a position of power and authority, used the lower classes about the same as livestock would be used. The modern woman is struggling in a morass of grief over the death of her mother as she travels to a small country village to close up the last home he
Apr 06, 2016 Tahira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Basically, I am disappointed. I really liked Longbourn, and though I knew that The Telling would be different, and that perhaps I would not like it as much, I am sorry to say that I did not like it very much at all. I was mostly underwhelmed by the story, particularly by the pacing and detail, which serves to make the novel very atmospheric but does not necessarily add much to the actual plot. Furthermore, the climax does not occur until the very, very end, meaning that seventy-five percent of t ...more
Meh. I really wanted to like this book. A dual timeline/ ghost story set in the British country side sounds intriguing, right? Unfortunately, the book just didn't live up to my expectations. The author was way to vague about some things. Like setting. I couldn't even figure out what century Lizzie's story took place in until at least halfway through the book. And what happened to Rachel's mom. I get that authors like to keep some details a mystery, but there was just way too much of that in this ...more
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Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.
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