House of Glass by Susan Fletcher #SpooktasticReads

Wyrd&Wonder

mage credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing another book for Wyrd and Wonder’s Spooktastic Reads event.  This is another gothic tale of haunting that I highly recommend.

House of GlassI am on a winning streak with my gothic reads these past few weeks and here is yet another little beauty to add to your wishlists.  I know, I know, I’m sorry, you have too many books already but you and I both know you don’t want to miss a good book – after all that’s how your TBR grew into such a monster in the first place and, whilst I hate to add to your ever growing stacks, trust me, this book is worth it.  Don’t miss out.  Described as being reminiscent of duMaurier I would suggest this also gave me Jane Eyre vibes and yet at the same time it absolutely stands on it’s own two feet.  Beautifully written and powerfully evocative it contains all the elements that woven together make an engrossing gothic story.

The thing I love about this book is the voice.  Clara is a wonderful narrator and I was quite hooked to the page as she recounted her early years. Clara was born with a condition that makes her skeleton incredibly vulnerable, apologies but I didn’t make a note of the name but it seems to be akin to ‘glass bones’.  A simple fall can result in serious damage and Clara spends her youth spent largely recuperating, mainly in the company of her mother and in a house that is all but wrapped in cotton wool to prevent, as far as possible, further injuries.  As she grows older her condition stabilises a little but of course by that time, and with so many broken bones already in her past Clara finds it difficult to walk without the aid of a stick.  On top of this her appearance is almost ethereal.  With a diminutive frame, strangely entrancing eyes and white blond hair she certainly catches attention although quite often of the negative variety.  And, finally, with a lack of social encounters in her past she has a certain way of interacting with others that is brutally frank and often borders on abrupt.  Here we have a female character, set in a period where societal restrictions would prevent her having any freedom, enjoying a lifestyle that is totally unexpected.  She is a wonderful creation, I loved her and I absolutely applaud the author for taking a character, born with such difficulties to surmount and instead of letting this restrict the story using it instead to create a strong and no-nonsense woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind or talk frankly.  I want more of this.

The story moves forward to approximately 1914.  Unfortunately Clara’s mother and only friend has passed away and Clara needs a purpose.  She takes to visiting Kew Gardens, fascinated by the plants and keen to learn.  She develops an almost teacher/student relationship with one of the head gardeners and from there stems an invitation to a country manor where the new owner, having recently built a grand greenhouse, requires someone with the expertise to fill it with exotic plants.  Shadowbrook House is appropriately named.  The villagers whisper about it, the housekeeper and maids are convinced it’s haunted and there are certainly plenty of strange noises of an evening.  Noises that whisper of footsteps treading along creaking floorboards, or perhaps just noises of an old house settling in to sleep at night.

I don’t think I need to really elaborate too much on the plot, this is a house with a history, it could be haunted or maybe it’s simply a house that is haunted by it’s past, people unable or unwilling to forget the ‘goings on’ that took place within its walls.  It has a forbidden attic, a reclusive owner and plenty of dark secrets just waiting to be unveiled.  I certainly didn’t foresee the final outcome but I confess I never try overly hard to second guess the endings to books – I prefer to let them reveal themselves as intended so it’s possible that others might not find the reveals as surprising as I did.  Undoubtedly this ticks a lot of the trope boxes that you would expect from a gothic read and I can almost picture you rolling your eyes thinking the ‘same old, same old’ but, apart from the fact that these tropes are so enjoyable anyway, what makes this book refreshingly different is the main protagonist who is such an original character.  Clara is an intelligent and practical woman.  She has a scientific mind and so as such refuses to believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night.  Instead she looks for rational explanation where others simply give in to superstition and she isn’t afraid to go and investigate.  Obviously, her nature is tempered by her easily broken bones.  Clara can’t go flinging herself around or dashing about the countryside, she has to take certain precautions but she doesn’t let her condition dictate who she is or use it as an excuse not to get on with life.

Added to a great protagonist and an eerie tale is of course the writing.  Susan Fletcher is a wonderful writer.  She has an almost magical way with words that simply transports you into whatever vision she is currently creating.  I’ve read a couple of her books before and it’s always the same for me – I rush through the book, devouring the words like a raging maniac and then finish the story feeling almost teary eyed and bereft.  There’s almost a poetic beauty to her words and yet at the same time a simplicity that just brings forth memories.  For this particular book it’s the garden, the scent of the flowers and the herbs, the beautiful colours and the feeling of nature doing what it does best.  Please, don’t take my word for it – go and pick up a copy and see what you think.

In terms of criticisms.  I have nothing.  I think the only proviso I would make is that whilst this is a ghostly tale I don’t think it’s a tale of terror – which I think is mainly down to Clara’s unwillingness to give in to flights of fancy.  But, I don’t really think of that as a criticism, just something to note.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : House of Glass by Susan Fletcher.  I’ve read a few of Susan Fletcher’s books and absolutely love her style of writing.  She’s a must read author for me so this immediately goes to the top of the wishlist.

House of GlassJune 1914 and a young woman – Clara Waterfield – is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn – and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper and maids seem afraid. And soon, Clara understands their fear: for something – or someone – is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook’s dark interior – and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing – not even the men who claim they wish to help her – is quite what it seems.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.

Due for publication : November 2018