Six years ago, Gwynn Forest’s husband Richard committed suicide. After that, she struggled to keep things together, emotionally, mentally, and financially. Then three fortuitous things happened: she sold the family construction company; she inherited a seaside cottage from an elderly English great-aunt whom she had never met, and she was offered a job on spec, illustrating a book for a friend. Thus, a new start in a new place. Once ensconced in Gull Cottage, she begins to learn disturbing things about her great-aunt and her new home. The cottage itself seems unwelcoming, perhaps haunted by the imprint of a sad and lonely old woman, with peculiar noises, strange happenings, and a back garden full of untamable brambles, no matter how much they are cut back.
Gwynn doesn’t believe in ghosts—until the disturbing occurrences at Gull Cottage change her mind. Gwynn doesn’t believe in herself—until, with no one else to turn to she has to rely on her own inner resources to confront the mysteries of Gull Cottage.
1. Dovecote can be seen as a novel about life after loss. Gwyn has lost her husband and her way in life. How does she find it again?
2. In the novel, Gwyn fights the overgrown garden. Why is that so important to her? In what way might that be symbolic?
3. Gwyn makes overtures to the only family member she knows in the village, and is rebuffed. What is the basis of this rejection, and why is this important?
4. Martin does not think his daughter Mary sees ghosts. What is his understanding of his daughter? Do you think he sells her short?
5. Gwyn Chelton changes dramatically from the girl in the old photograph, to the elderly woman who leaves the cottage to a great-niece she doesn’t know. Trace the change, and discuss the things which contribute to that evolution.
6. The climactic occurrence, for both Gwyns, is violent and painful. Their reactions are both similar and different. Why?
7. Gwyn’s solicitor, on first meeting, seems dry and officious; her perceptions of him change as she meets him in different settings. Describe the changes, and discuss what prompts them.
8. Does real love ever die?