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The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox. Book Review

November 10, 2016


In the scorching summer of 1976, Ed Peters, a journalist, chances upon an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop hidden way in an old part of the seaside town of Brightland. This discovery leads him to an elderly woman, the reclusive Leda Grey, who used to be a silent film actress at the very beginning of the industry in England. This act of curiosity leads Ed into a strange and mysterious world, where everyone plays a part like a character in a film.

Leda Grey is a story which reeks of atmosphere, of times gone by, of dust and decay, and what might have been. It is a story within a story, a book within a book. It is like standing in a room of opposing mirrors where you can see yourself reflecting off to the distance, growing ever smaller until you wonder if you are really there. This layering creates a real depth to an engaging book, which is a fictional insight into the transition from static photographs to moving pictures. The characters too make their own transitions, in ways that have a dramatic effect on the shape of their lives.

There is also a mystery to be solved as Ed reads Leda’s journal and communes with the enigmatic actress in her once elegant but now decaying home, allowing the novel to shift from past to present and back again, as well as change in pace and tone. This makes it possible to see the young Leda, the real Leda, beneath the layers of harsh life experiences that have built up until her delightful wide-eyed innocence becomes something only visible on the ephemeral medium of celluloid.

In the reading of Leda Grey you feel as if you should have a laudanum bottle by your side to drop into your glass of water as you slip ever deeper into the decadent world of the birth of film making, and Leda’s strange existence.

Leda Grey was courtesy of Orion via NetGalley

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