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.

 

 

Advertisements

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

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

letmetellyouMy primary reading these days falls into the SFF bracket without doubt, however, there are certain authors that I really enjoy that step outside that field that I always want to read and Susan Fletcher is one of those authors.  I first fell in love with her writing after reading Witch Light (which I think is also known as Corrag).  Fletcher has a way of writing things that simply make them stand out from the page.  Her writing is beautiful and evocative and this title is no exception.

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew brings to us a story about Jeanne Trabuc.  Jeanne’s husband runs the hospital at Saint-Paul-de Mausole and the hospital is about to receive a new patient who will certainly stir things up a lot. Not to beat about the bush the patient in question is Vincent Van Gogh and this book brings to us a fictionalised account of his time spent at the hospital in Provence following the troubled period in which he cut off part of his ear.

To be clear, this is very much Jeanne’s story but the arrival of VvG is definitely the catalyst that sparks a change in Jeanne during which she reflects on her own life.  Jeanne and her husband are at a quite stage of their life.  Their sons have grown and left home to start their own life stories and Jeanne finds herself a little lonely and at something of a loose end.  Her interest is sparked by this new addition to the hospital and she finds herself visiting him in spite of her husband’s express wishes that she have no contact with any of the patients.

This story is a slice of introspection during which Jeanne looks back at her life as a young girl and a mother reflecting on her own and her children’s hopes and wishes.

Why I liked this.  I loved reading those parts of the story in which VvG made an appearance, his description and the imaginary conversations with Jeanne were really intriguing, enough in fact to make me go and read up a little more of VvG’s life story and take a look at the pictures he painted during his time in Provence.  Also, and unsurprisingly for me, I loved the writing.  Fletcher is a beautiful writer and Provence is a beautiful place that provided this author with some wonderful material to work with.  The startling sunshine, the intensity of the flowers, the striking starlit sky and so much more.  The writing is, put simply, evocative.

This is only a fairly short story but it really caught my attention.  Jeanne and her husband may not be the most dynamic characters that you’ll ever read about and there’s certainly no swords and sorcery to be found here, but nonetheless this story captured my attention and in fact kept it long after I finished the book.

A quiet and thoughtful story, beautifully written and with an intriguing glimpse into the life of a brilliant and influential artist.

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

 

The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher

I think Susan Fletcher is set to be an author who’s books I really look forward to!  I absolutely loved Witch Light and couldn’t wait to read The Silver Dark Sea – and it didn’t disappoint.

The story takes place on the Island of Parla in Scotland.  This is a small island, very insular, where everyone knows everyone else and the idea of privacy is virtually none existent.  The island is steeped in superstition – mermaids and other mythical sea creatures – not to mention the sly tide which brings with it disaster.  I loved all the folk tales that the older characters passed down from generation to generation – they’re the sort of stories you love to hear when you’re a child and then love to retell as an adult.

Four years ago, one of the residents, Tom Bundy drowned rescuing a young boy who had fallen overboard into the sea.  Tom’s widow Maggie still mourns his loss as do the rest of the Islanders.  They’re all trapped in their own personal grief.  Tom was dearly loved.  A sort of golden child if you will.  His mother can’t get over his death and grieves most bitterly.  His older brother blames himself for not being there.  Basically there’s all sorts of self recrimination flying around and life on the island feels as though its been trapped in a bubble.  This is until the day a man is washed up on one of the Island’s coves.  This new man, unknown, yet strangely similar to Tom, who can’t remember his name, is to be the catalyst that finally shakes the residents out of their reverie and bursts the bubble they’ve been suspended in.  For a few moments, in fact, some of the residents believe this is Tom.  Returned to the Island by the sea after four years.

Other islanders think this man’s arrival is no coincidence.  They believe he’s a mythical creature.  Part man, part fish, who has come to dwell amongst them for a limited time and set their lives back to rights.  And, certainly there seems to be a hint of truth in the rumours.  This man seems to have the ability to change the island.  Everyone is fascinated by him, particularly Maggie.

I won’t go into more of the story than that.  What I will expand upon is Susan Fletcher’s writing.  This author is truly gifted!  I swear that you can picture this island vividly.  Fletcher has the ability to make you feel the sea spray upon your skin and the wind in your hair.  You feel like you’re there on the island.  She also pulls you into the culture of the place and really makes you want to believe in mythical creatures.  On top of that her characterisation is spot on.  She builds up stories around all the characters.  This may be a small island with few people but that doesn’t mean it’s quiet and peaceful.  You become aware of their secrets (and you can’t chuck a stick round Parla without hitting a skeleton in a closet) their past lives on the island, or off the island if they’re not originally from Parla.

In terms of criticisms I didn’t have any.  I really enjoyed this although I recognise it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  This is no fast paced, action packed thriller.  It’s a gentle story, beautifully told.  It does contain a lot of sadness but that’s not what the overall message is.  For me this is a story about how your life can change overnight.  How hope can survive against all odds and how our stories and beliefs make up such a large part of our lives.  It really is a lovely story and as with Witch Light it will be one that I think about for days after I put the book down.

I definitely recommend Susan Fletcher, particularly this story and Witch Light and I have no doubt I will now go back and read her previous work.

 

 

 

Witch Light by Susan Fletcher

Just finished reading Witch Light.  Witch Light is the story of Corrag who has been named ‘witch’ and condemned to die by fire.  As she spends her last few days in prison she agrees to tell her story to a visitor who is particularly interested in events that took place at Glencoe.  I must say that at the start of the book I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this read but after the first few chapters I was totally taken with Corrag – in fact I was bewitched (sorry couldn’t help it!).

To begin with I found the narrative voice a bit jumpy and almost repetitive but after a very short time the style became captivating and all the little pieces of information started to form into the bigger picture.  The story is told mainly through Corrag but also with letters sent to Mr Leslie’s wife and these alternative writing styles help to break the novel up a little and also help to demonstrate the differences in beliefs between the two people.  At the start Corrag’s visitor abhors her and can barely look upon her but over the course of the days spent listening to her story he gradually begins to see the lonely and persecuted life she has led.  Frankly, it’s a surprise that Corrag had not become bitter given the life she suffered but she manages to retain such innocence and delight and still to believe that people are good.  Eventually you can see the change in tide in the letters to Mr L’s wife, he is fascinated by Corrag, at first he thinks that she has cast a spell on him but soon enough he himself can’t wait to hear her story.

Corrag came from a line of persecuted women and was doomed from the outset really.  She runs away and after suffering great hardship comes to the Highlands (‘ride North and West’ her mother Cora told her) a place where she finally thinks she may live in peace.  I can’t really pin down why I liked this book so much, it’s just little bits of everything.  I loved the simple pleasures that Corrag enjoyed and also her little pieces of wisdom.  The descriptions of the highlands and the wildlife was amazing, the writing almost poetic and the people that she finally befriends just so well written and frankly easy to like.  They had hard lives but they had big hearts and strong loyalties.  There is also a tale of love and then one of horror as the events at Glencoe come to pass.

Obviously Susan Fletcher has researched her subject well.  Her attention to detail is amazing – however, I will say this is more a story of Corrag and how she manages to change one person’s perception of her rather than a detailed historical novel.  So, if you’re looking for the tale of Glencoe this might not be the book for you.  The massacre that took place is certainly a part of Corrag’s story just not the main focus.  I think this is more a focus on a time when people’s insecurities, petty jealousies and fear caused them to act in such a terrible way and commit crimes against, in this case, women who were simply different (and probably ahead of their time), so that having an opinion, being outspoken or simply having the curiosity to discover the whys or wherefores of a thing was enough to get you a ducking or death by fire.  And yet, here we have a woman, persecuted and hated who will still put her trust in people and help those who need it most.

Also, if you read this, you might want to have a tissue handy – especially about half way through – very touching (but I won’t elaborate).

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed this, a lot more than I actually expected after the first few pages and now I’ve finished reading it I actually miss it and find myself wanting to reread some of the chapters again.

Rating: -A

With Light

Witch Light