House of Glass
June 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.

House of Glass Details

TitleHouse of Glass
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 1st, 2018
PublisherVirago
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Gothic, Mystery, Audiobook, Fiction

House of Glass Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ‘’This was the time of day my mother had warned me against, years before. The half-light, she explained, can change how things appear so that distances may seem less. Our eyes might detect movement when in fact there is none; a shadow might become a living shape. In short, I was more likely to fall at twilight. Remember this, Clara. But she’d loved it, too. It was an hour of potency. In India, this had been the time of the leopard’s waking, in which jasmine smelled at its strongest.’’ England, ‘’This was the time of day my mother had warned me against, years before. The half-light, she explained, can change how things appear so that distances may seem less. Our eyes might detect movement when in fact there is none; a shadow might become a living shape. In short, I was more likely to fall at twilight. Remember this, Clara. But she’d loved it, too. It was an hour of potency. In India, this had been the time of the leopard’s waking, in which jasmine smelled at its strongest.’’ England, a few months before the Great War turns Europe into a bloody terrain of madness. Clara, a wealthy young woman, is invited to a mansion, undertaking the task of creating a unique glass house. However, the house and the community Clara finds herself in are anything but ordinary or peaceful. Clara herself isn’t ordinary. Inflicted by a rare syndrome that can leave her bones fractured in the blink of an eyes, graced with strangely beautiful hair and eyes, with a personality that is the definition of an atomic bomb (which is always a good thing for us women), Clara begins to witness events and behaviours that make her doubt her own firmly grounded, ardently supported convictions. Coming into a place haunted by secrets and death, wounded by the loss of her mother, Clara has to face a task that is much heavier and perilous than her own afflictions. ‘’An insufficient reply. Perhaps he had misheard me. But perhaps, too, it was an aversion, a step away from what I wished to know.’’ We’ve read many books using the trope of the young woman arriving in a strange mansion, toying with spectres and suspicions and secrets but Fletcher’s novel has a great asset. An extraordinary heroine and a wonderfully balanced told through exciting, confident writing. Atmospheric and complex, making use of the characteristics of the Haunted House in all its good, old British glory, the plot is so much more than that. Born through an utterly successful combination of Gothic and Historical Fiction, Fletcher provides food for thought on issues that have excited our imagination and divided us for centuries. Through the footsteps, the falling paintings, the scratches and the shadows, the withering flowers, the mysterious owner and the village life during a rather hot English summer, we’ll find the chance to ponder on Faith and Proof, on Belief and Certainty. On a journey where Faith can be seen as a refuge and Proof can be supported as a form of security in a changing world. Make of this debate what you will, draw your own conclusions. Fletcher manages to present everything in a balanced, respectful manner, resulting in a novel that will make us feel uncomfortable for things that lurk in the shadows and for the conviction adopted by many of us that everything can be explained, that science has an answer to every question. I am sorry but this is not accurate….A fine novel is a result of a well-told story and a successful cast of characters. House of Glass contains both. Set in an era when women finally decided to claim rights that should have been provided to them all along, when most men viewed the rising cried for equality and justice, dismissing them as temporary clutter (the way a certain contemporary ‘’leader’’ does…), Clara speaks with a voice that demand of everyone to listen. Now. To look beyond her syndrome and answer her questions clearly. She reminded me of Lib from Emma Donoghue’s masterpiece The Wonder. She gets into so much trouble to prove that there is nothing supernatural in those weird incidents and she rejects religion and the idea of the afterlife. And then, she learns to doubt. I loved her. The way she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, ignoring etiquette and political correctness. The way she refused to let anyone take her for a fool or make use of what others viewed as ‘’deficiencies’’. She is surrounded by characters that will accompany you on an exciting, thoughtful journey. Mr Fox, Mrs Bale, George and Kit.After a streak of horrible reads, House of Glass was a breath of fresh air, a beautiful reminder of why Historical and Gothic Fiction (when done right) create a unique reading experience. ‘’Such bone dreams had frequented my London life. My fear of fractures, by day, would move into dreams in which my teeth rained into my hands; I’d see myself as piano keys on which unknown fingers played. But the opiate brought the darkest dream. In it, my bones would be taken from me; faceless men would dismantle me, removing ribs from my nose or my femur through my mouth like an ancient ritual to which I’d not consented.’’ Many thanks to Virago Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Ova - Excuse My Reading
    January 1, 1970
    Reminded me of The Silent Companions and Little Stranger from time to time. Quite gothic and dark.We follow the story of Clara, a young woman almost made of glass, with a medical condition that curses her with easily broken bones. A childhood of suffering due to broken bones, she grows up to be a crippled young woman with a mind beyond her tiny body. After the loss of her mother she starts working for Kew Gardens. Until one day she's appointed to set up a glass house in a house in Gloucester.The Reminded me of The Silent Companions and Little Stranger from time to time. Quite gothic and dark.We follow the story of Clara, a young woman almost made of glass, with a medical condition that curses her with easily broken bones. A childhood of suffering due to broken bones, she grows up to be a crippled young woman with a mind beyond her tiny body. After the loss of her mother she starts working for Kew Gardens. Until one day she's appointed to set up a glass house in a house in Gloucester.The house is called Shadowbrook and the owner, Mr Fox, is not usually around, constantly away trips and the house workers are not allowed to go upstairs to his quarters. By the time she arrives Shadowbrook Clara faces with a cloud of mystery. The two maids and the housekeeper Mrs Bale are terrified, saying the house is haunted by a ghost. Clara also experiences the disturbances, scratched doors, footsteps in the night. But she doesn't believe in ghosts and thinks an intruder is causing the disturbances.The story flows beautifully with a surprising ending, and the air of mystery surrounding the house, Mr Fox, and Shadowbrooks's previous owners keeps the reader engaged and entertained until the end.A really good historical mystery with a lot of feminism in it, I would highly recommend this one if you like historical books.
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  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    A perfect read for a winter's night. An intriguing, and genuinely eerie slice of gothic fiction which was entertaining and atmospheric.I love gothic style stories and House of Glass by Susan Fletcher has all the elements of what I was looking for. A Manor House set on the edge of an English Country Village, it's reclusive owner who only visits occasionally and remains in his rooms for the during of his visit. A Village of wary residents who remain tight lipped when asked about the House's histor A perfect read for a winter's night. An intriguing, and genuinely eerie slice of gothic fiction which was entertaining and atmospheric.I love gothic style stories and House of Glass by Susan Fletcher has all the elements of what I was looking for. A Manor House set on the edge of an English Country Village, it's reclusive owner who only visits occasionally and remains in his rooms for the during of his visit. A Village of wary residents who remain tight lipped when asked about the House's history . June 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. But all is not what it seems in the Big House and Clara tries to discover its secrets and past. This is a well written book with a great sense of time and place, interesting and vivid characters and while I enjoyed the story the first 3/4 of the novel was very sluggish and I would normally read this in a few days but took me over a week to finish this 368 page novel. There was very little happening and while the writing was descriptive and vivid the plot was very thin to begin with and needs patience to hang in there. However the last quarter of the book really does liven up and was well worth the wait. I think readers who have enjoyed books like the The Thirteenth Tale or the The Silent Companions might well enjoy this book, just be prepared for the slow reveal.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    House of Glass is award-winning, historical fiction writer Susan Fletcher's first foray into the Gothic novel scene and creates a wonderful atmosphere and feelings of claustrophobia. Set in the run-up to the First World War, we meet Clara Waterfield, our narrator for the journey. Although Clara isn't really that likeable you can relate to most of her behaviour and thoughts. I found that in some parts of the story the revelations were very drawn out and as a result, everything became quite disjoi House of Glass is award-winning, historical fiction writer Susan Fletcher's first foray into the Gothic novel scene and creates a wonderful atmosphere and feelings of claustrophobia. Set in the run-up to the First World War, we meet Clara Waterfield, our narrator for the journey. Although Clara isn't really that likeable you can relate to most of her behaviour and thoughts. I found that in some parts of the story the revelations were very drawn out and as a result, everything became quite disjointed. Then there were other parts where the unfurling of the surprises came out of nowhere with absolutely no warning or clues. This made the whole book feel like a very stop-start affair and led to me placing it down several times. Don't get me wrong, the author has the talent to create a dark and unsettling story, but there were too many little annoyances that really had an impact on the way it held together. Shadowbrook, the setting for the story, is beautifully described and vividly imagined, and the air of mystery that surrounds the property was intriguing. The balance between Clara's medical condition, causing her to have brittle bones, and her strong, fearless personality was expertly done, and I appreciated that she had some fight left in her despite her condition.Many thanks to Virago for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    A house is meant to be a place of safety and intimacy. The haunted house is a powerful symbol of horror precisely because it shows us a haven of domesticity upturned by an intruder, and a supernatural one at that. It is hardly surprising that from being just one of many Gothic tropes, the haunted house eventually became the basis of a rich supernatural sub-genre. House of Glass is a historical novel within this tradition. It is set just before the outbreak of the First World War and features a s A house is meant to be a place of safety and intimacy. The haunted house is a powerful symbol of horror precisely because it shows us a haven of domesticity upturned by an intruder, and a supernatural one at that. It is hardly surprising that from being just one of many Gothic tropes, the haunted house eventually became the basis of a rich supernatural sub-genre. House of Glass is a historical novel within this tradition. It is set just before the outbreak of the First World War and features a sprawling mansion – Shadowbrook – marked by dark, old rumours about its previous owners, the evil and hated Pettigrew family. The last Pettigrew to inhabit Shadowbrook was the sensual, decadent and possibly mad Veronique - her ghost still walks its corridors and the pages of this book. So far, so familiar. Indeed, this novel shares many elements with other books within the (sub-)genre. It has been compared to Du Maurier’s Rebecca but I would say that its mixture of Gothic thrills, historical novel and social commentary is closer in spirit to Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger. What makes House of Glass particularly original is its protagonist and narrator, Clara Waterfield. Conceived out of wedlock in India, and born in England where her mother Charlotte is dispatched to avoid a scandal, Clara suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta or “brittle bones disease”, a condition which causes fractures at the least pressure or impact. As a result, Clara lives a secluded London childhood, fiercely protected by her parents. The premature death of her mother thrusts Clara into adulthood. Notwithstanding her syndrome, her walking cane and ungainly gait, Clara ventures out into the world. The gardens at Kew become her refuge and she finds herself turning into an amateur botanist – “amateur” in the best sense of the word, that of a lover of knowledge. This earns her the respect, friendship and support of Forbes, the foreman of the glasshouses. It also leads to an unexpected invitation. One day, Clara is summoned to Gloucestershire by the new owner of Shadowbrook, to oversee the installation of exotic plants from Kew in a new greenhouse in the mansion’s gardens. It is here that the ghost story proper begins. For Clara finds herself surrounded by mystery and secrets, by things that go bump in the night and malevolent attacks by an unseen visitor. The housekeeper and maids cower in fear of the ghost of Veronique Pettigrew, a woman seemingly so evil that a mere mention of her name is enough to unleash poltergeist activity. Clara is sceptical but her rationalist approach is put under severe test. That summer will mark her coming to age, as she questions long-held certainties and beliefs.At one level, House of Glass is enjoyable as a good old piece of storytelling. But there is so much more to it. What struck me at first is the blend of realism and the supernatural. Shadowbrook and its gardens are inspired by the real-life Hidcote Manor Gardens (a National Trust property in Gloucestershire) and they are lovingly and minutely described. At the same time, Fletcher uses small details (closed, dust-filled rooms; peeling paint; a blood-stained billiard table) to evoke an atmosphere of fear and dread. The scene has already been set for the nocturnal visitations which considerably ratchet up the tension. The novel also manages to take an established form and inject it with a strong dose of feminism. Clara’s condition becomes a symbol of female rebellion and resistance, her physical imperfections as transgressive as her assertiveness and inquisitiveness. There is a parallel between the “cripple” Clara and the uniquely beautiful Veronique, both of them strong women trying to hold their own in a patriarchal society. Clara ruefully notes that despite the fact that the male Pettigrews were violent and criminal, it was Veronique and her ‘sex orgies’ which gripped the attention of the sleepy village where she lived and which marked her forever as an epitome of immorality. This leads to another theme which is central to the novel, namely that of truth and falsehood, and how accounts can be manipulated to propagate the worldview favoured by their narrator.My only reservation when reading the novel was that there are a number of narrative gear-changes late in the book. Engrossing as it is, the plot moves forward at a leisurely pace until about three-quarters in, when a raft of unexpected revelations propel the tale forward and lead us closer to the “sensation novel”. In the final chapters then, there is yet another shift, as the work ends with a meditation on war. The more I think about it, however, the more I tend to feel that my initial doubts were unfounded – the different facets of House of Glass ultimately add up to a convincing whole, held together by Fletcher’s lyrical and elegiac writing style. For this is also a story about the passing of an era, and what are ghosts if not remnants, in one way or another, of a half-remembered past? A longer version of this review, featuring a selection of music to accompany the novel, can be found at https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...
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  • Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
    January 1, 1970
    I had such high hopes for this one. It does some things well. A main character that has a disability and is different and she stayed clear of the “this girl has a disability so she must be sweet and lovely” trope which I was grateful for but apart from that this book just did not quite know what it wanted to be. All over the place.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my goodness what a book. This is absolutely exquisite; so lyrical and vivid and such an amazing protagonist. I don't want to say too much as I don't want to spoil any of the experience but I will say if you enjoy beautiful writing and intense character connections, this is an absolute must!
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  • Lynn Williams
    January 1, 1970
    https://lynns-books.com/2018/10/30/ho...I 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 https://lynns-books.com/2018/10/30/ho...I 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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  • Eleanor
    January 1, 1970
    (4.5)At first glance, House of Glass seems to fit neatly into the tradition of English Gothic haunted-house stories: an unusual or unreliable narrator (Clara Waterfield, age twenty and a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, which renders her bones dangerously brittle; her beloved mother is dead of cancer and her stepfather not unkind but distant) is summoned to a stately home (Shadowbrook, in Gloucestershire) that represents some kind of sanctuary (the opportunity to use her newly acquired horti (4.5)At first glance, House of Glass seems to fit neatly into the tradition of English Gothic haunted-house stories: an unusual or unreliable narrator (Clara Waterfield, age twenty and a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, which renders her bones dangerously brittle; her beloved mother is dead of cancer and her stepfather not unkind but distant) is summoned to a stately home (Shadowbrook, in Gloucestershire) that represents some kind of sanctuary (the opportunity to use her newly acquired horticultural skills in the cultivation of a glasshouse for Shadowbrook’s owner, the mysterious Mr. Fox). “Trouble” is darkly hinted at (by the man who drives Clara from the station to the house), but our narrator remains skeptical of anything that can’t be touched or proven. Still, the house’s staff seem to be hiding something (the overly cheerful housekeeper, Mrs. Bale, and two frightened maids from the village, Harriet and Maud), and eventually our narrator experiences some uncanny goings-on for themselves. Intellectually frustrated by the apparent impossibility of the supernatural, our narrator seeks to uncover the truth, while simultaneously revealing themselves to the reader as being an ever more untrustworthy and subjective observer.Roughly, that is what happens in the first half of House of Glass, but Susan Fletcher innovates by making Clara not less believable, but more so. Learning to shed her preconceptions about rationality and the nature of knowledge, she also learns to shed idealized images of other people: too frail throughout childhood and adolescence to have a normal social life, she is forced to meet people at Shadowbrook who are – like all real people – contradictory, confusing, and illogical in their actions. This will eventually prove the key to solving the mystery of Shadowbrook, which – it’s whispered – is the ghost of Veronique Pettigrew, the daughter of the family that used to own the place. To say too much more would be to spoil the clever way in which Fletcher undermines the tropes of the Gothic romance genre: the crazed, over-sexed woman (Bertha in Jane Eyre, Cathy in Wuthering Heights), the deceptive housekeeper (Mrs. Danvers, Mrs. Fairfax), the brooding romantic hero whose role, in House of Glass, is spread over several male characters and in one instance combined with the trope of the taciturn-but-sexy man of the soil. Fletcher makes us consider the difference between real life and fiction. We think we are reading one sort of book, one particular set of accepted illusions, but that too is an illusion: House of Glass is a different book at its end, once we grow to understand – along with Clara, whose book-derived ideas about life echo Catherine Morland’s in Northanger Abbey, though to an effect that’s alarming rather than amusing – what it is we’re actually reading.About three-quarters of the way through, the device that has brought all of these characters together in one place is revealed, and it’s the weakest part of the book, as such devices tend to be. Still, if the book resonates with Jane Eyre in its early sections, it’s worth remembering that Charlotte Bronte resorts to a universally-derided and equally implausible trick in order to reunite Jane and Rochester; Fletcher’s use of convoluted coincidence can be read as another comment on the genre she’s working with. House of Glass is fluid, addictive, and very clever, all at once: I can’t recommend it more highly.This post was a stop on the House of Glass blog tour. Thanks to Virago for the review copy!
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  • Angela Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Clara Waterfield has spent most of her life cushioned from life's knocks as she has a rare bone disorder which causes them to break like twigs as she grows up some strength is afforded her and she manages to get about with a cane. Her mother dies and Clara wants a bit of independence from her stepfather and the house she has been closeted in. One of her strengths is that she knows plants. A gardener at Kew who she befriends helps her to get a temporary position at a country house whose owner wan Clara Waterfield has spent most of her life cushioned from life's knocks as she has a rare bone disorder which causes them to break like twigs as she grows up some strength is afforded her and she manages to get about with a cane. Her mother dies and Clara wants a bit of independence from her stepfather and the house she has been closeted in. One of her strengths is that she knows plants. A gardener at Kew who she befriends helps her to get a temporary position at a country house whose owner wants a glass house restoring with new plants. Shadowbrook is the house and is as much an enigma as the elusive owner Mr Fox.Clara is a practical and outspoken young woman and talks in a way that not all the staff and villagers approve of. However, strange things are happening at Shadowbrook which are causing Clara to change her beliefs in a lot of things. The book certainly has a gothic and mysterious edge to it as Clara delves into the history of the house and its past inhabitants and the writing is solid and well written, but sometimes it feels like the story is a little sluggish but overall I liked it.
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  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    Review to follow.
  • Olga Miret
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in mor Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in more detail, I realised I could use almost word by word the same title for my review, although the subject of the novel is quite different. “A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel.” Yes, this definitely applies to House of Glass as well. This time the story is set in the UK right before the breaking of the First World War, and in fact, there are rumours spreading about its likelihood already when the novel starts. It is a fascinating time, and the life of the protagonist, Clara Waterfield, is deeply affected by the historical period she has to live in, from her birth in very late Victorian times, to what would be a very changed world after the Great War, with the social upheaval, the rapid spread of industrialization, the changing role of women, and the all-too-brief peace. Clara, who tells the story in the first person, is a great creation, who becomes dearer and dearer to us as we read the book. This is not a novel about a protagonist who is fully-formed, recognisable and unchanging, and runs across the pages from one action scene to the next hardly pausing to take a breather. Clara reflects upon her past (although she is very young, she has suffered greatly, but not lived much), her condition (she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bones, and that meant that she was kept indoors and not exposed to the risks and dangers of the outside world, the London streets in her case throughout her childhood), her family, and life experiences or her lack of them. No matter what she looks like, her short stature, her difficulty walking, her limitations in physical activity, this is a determined woman, make no mistake. She has learned most of what she knows through books (non-fiction mostly, although she enjoyed the Indian tales her mother used to read her), she has experienced not only pain, but other kinds of loses, and there are secrets and mysteries surrounding her, but despite all that, she is all practical and logical when we meet her. Her lack of exposure to the real world makes her a fascinating narrator, one who looks at everything with the eyes of a new-born or an alien suddenly landed in our society, who might have theoretical knowledge but knows nothing of how things truly work, while her personality, determined and stubborn, and her enquiring nature make her perfect to probe into the mystery at the heart of Shadowbrook. Readers might not find Clara particularly warm and engaging to begin with (despite the sympathy they might feel for her suffering, something she would hate), as she dispenses with the niceties of the period, is headstrong and can be seen as rude and unsympathetic. At some point, I wondered if there might have been more to her peculiar personality than the way she was brought up (she can be obsessive with the things she likes, as proven by her continuous visits to Kew Gardens once she discovers them, and her lack of understanding of social mores and her difficulty in reading people’s motivations and feelings seemed extreme), but she quickly adapts to the new environment, she thrives on change and challenges, she shows a great, if somewhat twisted, sense of humour at times, and she evolves and grows into her own self during the novel, so please, readers, stick with the book even if you don’t connect with her straightaway or find her weird and annoying at times. It will be worth your while. Her point of view might be peculiar, but Clara is a great observer of people and of the natural world. She loves her work and she is careful and meticulous, feeling an affinity for the exotic plants of the glass house, that, like her until recently, also have to live enclosed in an artificial environment for their own safety. That is partly what enhances their beauty and their rarity in our eyes. By contrast, Clara knows that she is seen as weird, lacking, less-able, and hates it. She is a deep thinker and reflects upon what she sees, other people’s behaviours, she imagines what others might be talking about, and dreams of her dead mother and soon also of the mystery behind the strange happenings at the house. The novel has been described as gothic, and that is a very apt description, even though it is not always dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of scenes that take place in the garden, in the fields, and in the open air, but we do have the required strange happenings, creaks and noises, scratches on doors, objects and flowers behaving in unpredictable fashion, previous owners of the house with a troublesome and tragic past, a mysterious current owner who hides something, violence, murder, and plenty of rumours. We have a priest who is conflicted by something, a loyal gardener who knows more than he says, a neighbouring farmer who has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and a housekeeper who can’t sleep and is terrified. But there is much more to the novel than the usual tropes we have come to expect and love in the genre. There is social commentary; there are issues of diversity and physical disability, discussions about religious belief and spirituality, and also about mental health, women’s rights, and the destructive nature of rumours and gossip, and some others that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers.I don’t want to give anything away, and although the story moves at a steady and contemplative pace, this in no way makes it less gripping. If anything, the beauty of the language and the slow build up work in its favour, giving us a chance to get fully immersed in the mood and the atmosphere of the place.I marked a lot of passages, and I don’t think any of them make it full justice, but I’ve decided to share some, nonetheless:She’d also said that there was no human perfection; that if the flaw could not be seen physically, then the person carried it inside them, which made it far worse, and I’d believed this part, at least. For my mother had never spoken well of the Church. Patrick had said nothing at all of it. And my own understanding had been that imperfect bodies were forms of godly punishment; that imperfect meant I was worth less somehow. I’d disliked this notion intensely. Also, I was not a spare rib.I could not taste fruit from studying a sketch of it, cut in half. What use was only reading of acts and not doing them? Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.The ending… We find the solution to the mystery, (which I enjoyed, and at the time I wondered why the book did not finish at that point) but the novel does not end there, and we get to hear what happened in the aftermath of the story. And yes, although at first, I wasn’t sure that part was necessary, by the end of the book proper I was crying and felt as if I was leaving a close friend in Clara, one that I was convinced would go on to lead a happy life.Another fantastic novel by Susan Fletcher, one I recommend to fans of gothic novels, of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and her other novels, of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and of inspiringly gorgeous writing. I do not recommend it to readers who prefer an action-laden plot with little space for thought or reflexion, although why not check a sample of the book and see for yourselves? I must catch up on the rest of the author’s novels and I hope there will be many more to come.
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  • Lizzi
    January 1, 1970
    Really enjoyed this - historical setting, mystery, interesting characters, possible ghosts?! Blog review here https://t.co/4JxxK6hOOA
  • Sue Hampton
    January 1, 1970
    I am such a passionate admirer of Susan Fletcher’s work that I will read any novel of hers, whatever the genre – if it has one - and if I had to apply just one adjective to her writing passionate is what I would choose. I admire two elements consistent through each title: a breadth and depth of wise and generous characterisation, and a style that is rich but simple, unusual for its clarity, sensuality and painterly beauty. As a reader I’m less drawn to plot, but as an author I try to explore dif I am such a passionate admirer of Susan Fletcher’s work that I will read any novel of hers, whatever the genre – if it has one - and if I had to apply just one adjective to her writing passionate is what I would choose. I admire two elements consistent through each title: a breadth and depth of wise and generous characterisation, and a style that is rich but simple, unusual for its clarity, sensuality and painterly beauty. As a reader I’m less drawn to plot, but as an author I try to explore different kinds of story while aiming to challenge expectations as Fletcher does here. Like her award-winning debut, Eve Green, this is a mystery, but with a different kind of investigation and echoes of Du Maurier’s Rebecca. So it’s a return, after my favourite Let me Tell You About a Man I Knew, to more traditional storytelling, and thus more commercial as genre tends to be. It could be electric on screen. Yet it subverts, turns, and depends for its impact not on the arc of events that build tension but on those two fundamentals that differentiate this novel from others that explore similar territory. Here we have a central character so individual, complex and fully human in her ‘disability’ that as she emerges she develops and compels. She would drive the novel without the subsidiary, if engaging, drama around her. There are male characters that even while still unknown to the reader (as to Clara) have definition, life and promise. Fletcher’s writing is profoundly psychological and one might add the word ‘thriller’ but what she brings to this story along with such cleverness is feeling. Empathy. And the style that’s become more distinctive since the Whitbread First Novel Award? It flows through this novel like a stream under sun. There are sentences I read aloud to enjoy again, images so original and yes, imaginative – but fitting – that I smiled, shook my head, wished I’d thought of them. The setting that gives the story colour, texture and scent, is created with detail and intensity. So House of Glass offers many extras to those who like their ghost stories. It’s much more than another country house novel set at the time of the war to end all wars. Yes, it’s about female independence, freedom and strength in the wake of the Suffragettes, and heralds change in society’s norms, but its values are more personal too, and more universal. Not just love, death, forgiveness, loss, the sacredness of connection and the loneliness of its absence. Not just duty, cruelty, bitterness, abuse. Fletcher explores the narratives that define us – those we shape for ourselves, which can liberate or constrain, but also those that make mistakes of others, and that misinform or fabricate but mutate from gossip into ‘history’ while distorting identity. As the moving and lyrical final chapter makes explicit, it’s about the power of the past to haunt in different ways. And, even at the darkest time, about hope. It’s about the soul, and soul is what it has.
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  • Sue K
    January 1, 1970
    This a well written story with a glorious atmospheric gothic feel. The novel takes place on the eve of first World War and young Clara Waterfield has lost her beloved mother. Clara herself suffers horribly from a brittle bone disease leaving her unable to stand straight and susceptible to bones breaking very easily and was unable to leave home. But on the death of her mother she starts to venture outside and one day finds herself at the greenhouses of Kew Gardens. There, she learns all she can a This a well written story with a glorious atmospheric gothic feel. The novel takes place on the eve of first World War and young Clara Waterfield has lost her beloved mother. Clara herself suffers horribly from a brittle bone disease leaving her unable to stand straight and susceptible to bones breaking very easily and was unable to leave home. But on the death of her mother she starts to venture outside and one day finds herself at the greenhouses of Kew Gardens. There, she learns all she can about the plants and this in turn gets her a job at a large country house in Gloucestershire taking care of plants in a newly built glass house.The house itself is unloved but the gardens are beautifully looked after by a small group of locals - but there is talk that the house itself is haunted and Clara spends a few weeks there before even meeting the owner of the house - the elusive Mr Fox. Things are not what they seem at the house and village as Clara soon finds out before the end all is revealed satisfactorily.True, at first I found the short staccato sentences a little jarring but as I immersed myself further in the book I found that they perfectly described the situation Clara found herself in.There are indeed echoes of Hardy's Bethsheba and maybe a touch of Du Maurier about this story but the period in which it is written evokes a hot steamy summer before the outbreak of a terrible war and this interwoven with the gothic nature gave me a very satisfying read.
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  • Linda Acaster
    January 1, 1970
    A stream of lies ripples through this novel, its sun-sparkling surface hiding its depths and its currents. Due to her health, Clara was a shut-in during her formative years, learning about the world beyond the window from books and from her doting mother who’d been sent in disgrace from colonial India to England to become the wife of a man who entertained a special male friend. Thus the foundations of the narrative themes are cemented.On the cusp of Clara’s womanhood, her mother dies leaving her A stream of lies ripples through this novel, its sun-sparkling surface hiding its depths and its currents. Due to her health, Clara was a shut-in during her formative years, learning about the world beyond the window from books and from her doting mother who’d been sent in disgrace from colonial India to England to become the wife of a man who entertained a special male friend. Thus the foundations of the narrative themes are cemented.On the cusp of Clara’s womanhood, her mother dies leaving her grieving and angry but determined to interact with a world she’s only read about. How to travel on an omnibus is tackled as if an arithmetic problem; with no learned small-talk or people skills she interrogates those she comes into contact with as if interrogating a library tome for an elusive fact. As the sole narrator, Clara uses the same staccato sentence structure, inadvertently setting herself at an oblique angle to those around her.Having the world unfold in a series of greys instead of the black and white of facts is a study in well-handled characterisation, as again and again Clara has to re-assess her position and beliefs, hold herself to account, and learn to empathise with others. A thought-provoking novel well worth the read.
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  • Orláith
    January 1, 1970
    review originally posted at https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp2gJoyHjvG/First things first, this book is absolutely stunning. My photo doesn't do it justice.Secondly, and I really do feel the need to shout this, I LOVED THIS BOOK! I was hooked right from the first page. I loved the characters, the setting, the plot - the whole shebang. It actually reminded me very much of Laura Purcell's writing (and I adored both of her books). Honestly, this whole post is simply me gushing about how amazing this b review originally posted at https://www.instagram.com/p/Bp2gJoyHjvG/First things first, this book is absolutely stunning. My photo doesn't do it justice.Secondly, and I really do feel the need to shout this, I LOVED THIS BOOK! I was hooked right from the first page. I loved the characters, the setting, the plot - the whole shebang. It actually reminded me very much of Laura Purcell's writing (and I adored both of her books). Honestly, this whole post is simply me gushing about how amazing this book is, so just save yourself the time and go buy a copy NOW.Thank you so much @viragopress for having me as part of the House of Glass blog tour!
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  • Janine
    January 1, 1970
    The writing was not for me: too flowery, overly descriptive and rather than build atmosphere I just found it a bit irritating(the letters clicked in my mouth (?), his hands opened and closed like weathered blooms, her gaze rested on me as a moth might touch a window pane). It’s a shame as I waited on hold for ages for this at my local library, but I cannot continue with it. Not my cup of tea. Echoes of Jane Eyre, but badly done in my opinion.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Fletcher is one of my favourite authors, but whilst this has a nicely gothic atmosphere and is generally well-plotted (though a couple of twists were predictable), it lacks the melancholy beauty and finesse of her best work (Oystercatchers, The Silver Dark Sea). Still a very enjoyable read.
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  • Zoe
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK for review copy in exchange for honest review. I felt like I was there in this novel. So real does the writing make you see, feel, and empathize with the heroine in this unearthly story.
  • Rachel B
    January 1, 1970
    Such a beautiful book, I couldn't guess where it was going until the very end and I found that refreshing. I adored the continuous mention of plants, it made me remember my grandparents.Full review to come.
  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★✰✰ 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4)Full review to come.
  • Beverley
    January 1, 1970
    An outstanding novel once again from this author. The richly poetic language flows effortlessly, sweeping us into this highly atmospheric storyline, which is narrated so beautifully by the wondefully real main character, Clara.
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