With riveting psychological complexity, The Ruins captures the tangled legacy of abuse, the glittering allure of the Mediterranean––and the dark shadows that wait beneath the surface of both.
Welcome to the Chateau des Sètes, a jewel of the Cote d’Azur, where long summer days bring ease, glamour, and decadence to the holidaymakers who can afford it. Ruby Ashby adores her parents’ house in France, but this August, everything feels different. Unexpected guests have descended upon the chateau––friends of her parents, and their daughters—and they are keen to enjoy the hot, extravagant summer holiday to its fullest potential. Far from England, safe in their wealth and privilege, the adults revel in bad behaviour without consequence, while the girls are treated as playthings or abandoned to their own devices. But despite languid days spent poolside and long nights spent drinking, a simmering tension is growing between the families, and the sanctuary that Ruby cherishes soon starts to feel like a gilded cage. Over two decades later the chateau is for sale, its days of splendour and luxury long gone, leaving behind a terrible history and an ugly legacy. A young widow has returned to France, wanting to purchase the chateau, despite her shocking memories of what transpired that fateful summer. But there is another person who is equally haunted by the chateau, and who also seeks to reclaim it. Who will set the chateau free––and who will become yet another of its victims?
I was completely transported by The Ruins. Phoebe Wynne has evocatively rendered a beautiful, doomed French chateau while creating immersive, almost dream-like atmospherics. I loved this novel.
Bestselling author of THE SANATORIUM
Tense and atmospheric, The Ruins investigates trauma and memory with a knowing, meticulous hand. The Chateau des Sètes - in all its crumbling, sinister glory - will imprint on your psyche as if you, too, spent a fateful summer there years ago... but it's the young women who call it home that leave the mostlasting impression. This is a book that understands the inherent dangers of girlhood, and one that believes wholeheartedly in the innate resilience, bravery, and compassion of teenage girls themselves.
Author of ALL GIRLS
The French Riviera has never been more captivating or unsettling. A story rich with family tensions and a chateau that serves as a gilded cage. The Ruins is both beautifully written and haunting at its core. Another stunning novel from Phoebe Wynne.
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of A HISTORY OF WILD PLACES and THE WICKED DEEP
Rippling with suspense and gripping from the outset, The Ruins is a powerful feminist novel written with real panache
Author of TRULY DARKLY DEEPLY
The Ruins is a raw, unsettling coming-of-age story not for the faint-hearted. Harrowing and compelling, this is a story burning with rage and the heat of the male gaze
Author of RETURN TO BLACKWATER HOUSE
a letter to readers
For so many, the South of France conjures up images of the Cannes Film Festival, 60s films starring Brigitte Bardot, or the expat excess of the Fitzgeralds. For me, the Riviera runs through my blood and my memory, thanks to every summer spent there as a child. The pairing of my French mother and English father ensured that I enjoy the two cultures, cherish each of them, but somehow remain a foreigner to both. It’s a lonely place to be, but it’s also the perfect vantage point from which to observe. Beautiful summers in the Côte d’Azur scorch your memory when they go wrong. What seems idyllic and luxurious in The Ruins—wealthy Brits holidaying with their friends in a chateau on the Riviera—hides something I recognise: a sense of entitlement, one-upmanship concealed by camaraderie, and elaborate displays of wealth masking real money worries. In The Ruins, every one of these glitteringly grim moments is performed in front of the wide eyes of the children. Children see things more simply and more clearly than adults. Children feel their feelings in sharper focus than adults. Children grow up and become remembering adults. And by God, do they remember.
In The Ruins, the three girls both speak and keep silent in ways that women everywhere will recognise in younger versions of themselves. Their thoughts and actions still shock and surprise me, though they are entirely of my own creation. But it seems I had to write this novel just to rewrite the story I knew as a child, that I know now as a woman. And so inevitably, The Ruins strays from real life in one crucial way: the adults are held accountable, and punished by the children, ensuring that those that did wrong get their just desserts.
Perhaps this is why, as an adult, I’ve been so drawn to the Classics: tragedy, blame, and retribution are inextricably linked. As in my debut novel, Madam, shades of the ancient histories and mythologies find their way into this contemporary story, reminding us that the past is never far, and that we mortals are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, again and again, as the balance of justice hangs over us. But what might happen if a few brave girls disrupted that cycle? I hope you’ll discover the answer for yourself in The Ruins.