Review: The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird by Louisa Morgan

The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird by Louisa Morgan

Timy reviews The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird, the new fantasy standalone novel by Louisa Morgan.

I received a physical copy from Orbit thanks to Nazia in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book
Series:standalone
Genre:Fantasy
Publisher:Orbit
Date of Publishing:November 23, 2023
Trigger Warnings:mention of suicide, drugs, child abuse, domestic abuse, depression, violence
Page count:371
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
  • Free Your Mind
  • Justice
  • I’m Still Here
  • Family Portrait
  • Emergency (Vészhelyzet)
  • I’ll Be There
Book Blurb
The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird by Louisa Morgan

A woman’s ability to see ghosts draws her into a journey of redemption and unexpected friendship in this unforgettable story from the acclaimed author of A Secret History of Witches.

Beatrice Bird is plagued by ghosts. It’s a gift she’s had since she was a small child. Unfortunately, it’s a gift that has grown more intense, shifting from flashes and feelings to physical manifestations she can’t escape. 

In a desperate attempt for relief, Beatrice flees her home, her partner, and a psychology practice in San Francisco for a remote island with only nuns and a few cows for company. She sees as few people as she possibly can. She doesn’t call home. Then she meets Anne Iredale, a timid woman who has lost everything that matters to her.

For the first time in a long time, Beatrice’s gift will be called on to help someone in need. The path to healing awaits both of them—if Beatrice can find the courage to take the first step.

Quote of the Book
Quote Background

“Beatrice was unused to isolation. She had chosen this loneliness, and it brought relief of a sort, but it was the kind of relief that comes from the cessation of pain. She was learning that the absence of pain left space for other discomforts, like the weight of unrelenting silence and the yearning for places and people she loved.”

Song of the Book

I had a hard time picking a song for The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird, but eventually, I decided to go for Lost Within from one of my favorite (and wholly underrated) bands, Fivefold.

Review

When I learned that a new Louisa Morgan book was coming in 2023, I got excited. I think it’s safe to say The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird was one of my most anticipated reads this year. The first novel I read from her was The Great Witch of Brittany in 2022, which I requested on a whim, without knowing anything about Morgan or her previous books. And even though I read it early in the year, it set a really high bar for anything coming after it – not surprisingly it landed on my top 10 reads, easily. I was hoping to catch up with her other books, but things didn’t go that way. Oh well. At least had her latest, and boy I’m so happy I did get my hands on a review copy. Morgan is definitely making her way on my favorite authors’ list and I have zero regrets about that.

The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird is mostly set in 1977, with flashbacks into the past as we get to know Beatrice and Alice’s stories. Beatrice is in her late forties, has a PhD in psychiatry and she voluntarily left behind her life in San Francisco to live as a recluse on a small island where there is nothing but a small community run by nuns. She has a cottage with a view and a lonely life as she tries to have as few contacts with people as possible. Dr. Bird has a curious ability to see people’s ghosts as she calls them, and have feelings or rather intuitions into their lives and emotions. Throughout the book, we learn how her ability started and how it got so out of hand that she ended up closing herself off from everyone. Her peaceful life is disturbed when Anne shows up on the island, and Mother Maggie (a senior nun), asks Beatrice to shelter her for a night. Anne is in her early thirties, and quite clearly troubled. Beatrice can barely bear to be near her due to her oppressive and sorrowful ghosts. Their meeting starts a chain reaction of events which forms a bond between the two women.

I’ll not go into more details than that regarding the plot because I believe this is a book everyone has to experience for themselves. Morgan waves the plot masterfully, and though it’s not a book I would call fast-paced, there is not a moment that feels unnecessary or out of place. The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird grabs you at the very first page and never lets you go. I could barely set it down, I was so invested in these ladies’ stories, and how it all would end. And even though I had hopes for the ending, I could never be sure what it might be, and that kept me on my toes. I don’t know what it is in Morgan’s writing that appeals to me, but at this point, I really don’t care what she is going to write about next, I will read anything she puts out. You know I don’t usually write gushing reviews, but I literally have no complaints whatsoever about The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird.

I loved the clever choice of time in which this book is set and the atmosphere Morgan created with the island life including the cows, the nuns, and everything. The way she was able to paint the scenes in simple ways that still felt very real, like you were right there with the characters. There are a lot of elements here that many people will be able to identify with. The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird is not an easy read though. Morgan touches upon a lot of hard topics, some are only mentioned, some are hinted at and some are explored more deeply. Such as child abuse, domestic abuse, mental health problems, societal issues (the roles of men (toxic masculinity!) and women within and without a relationship, people living together without marriage, and the effects of the summer of love among other things). But the focus is on relationships in general – we see a lot of examples of a toxic relationship but there is also a balance of a relationship where people are equals. There are examples of dysfunctional families, and also examples of how a parent-child relationship should be.

There were times when I could see myself in some of these character’s situations. I think I mostly identified with Anne when it came to her relationship with her parents. There is a scene where Anne mentions she visited the family of her friend on a holiday and how astonished she was to see a different type of family dynamics, and how it unsettled her. That got under my skin.

Quote Background

“She, Anne Iredale, had buried her true self under layers of propriety and convention, and she had no idea how to exhume it.”

As for Beatrice, I could identify with her because of her well, let’s call it intuitions. I usually call it my sixth sense, and even though I don’t have anything like Beatrice, but I still tend to know things I have no explanation for. It’s pretty hard to surprise me because of that. I have a handful of stories, some that still dumbfound me to this day. I’m not sure I myself believe in ghosts and spirits as I never had any experiences in that area, but I do believe in some people having unexplainable abilities. Maybe not on such an extreme level as Beatrice Bird, but still. I sure as hell don’t believe in coincidences.

The hardest parts of The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird to read are the ones that are written from Benjamin’s POV, who is Anne’s 5-year-old son. Boy, those cut deep. And after everything is said and done, it’s just impossible not to have some kind of emotional reaction to this book. It’s written with such precision and care to have the maximum effect, that nearly a day later of finishing it, I’m still under its spell. And I don’t think The Ghosts of Beatrice Bird will leave me anytime soon. I really hope that people will pick up this book and experience Louisa Morgan‘s genius.

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

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