Hello! It has been some time since I’ve posted on my blog, what with life and study taking centre stage! I am on semester break now, so the plan is to write, read and post a lot more.
Talking of reading, I have been on holiday at the beach this week and have been absolutely hooked by a book I brought with me while chilling out on the balcony overlooking the waves! I just finished it and want to chat about it!
The book is The Corset by Laura Purcell. The story, set in the early – mid 1800s, focuses on two young women and their vastly different lives. Ruth has had a difficult childhood and her family struggle to survive their worsening financial situation. She has one saving grace: she can sew. She has a rare talent and it might just keep them afloat. Dorothea lives a privileged life with her father in a time when women are expected to marry and family money is pivotal. She has different plans, however, and is currently focused on her passion for phrenology and her desire to prove that the shape of a person’s head impacts their personality and behaviour.
Dorothea meets Ruth on her charitable visits to the local prison, where the young woman is awaiting trial for murder. She listens to Ruth as she talks of her life and recounts the events that led up to her current situation. Much to her confusion, she is faced with a new theory that opposes the science she believes in: could Ruth have used an unnatural power as she sewed to kill her victim? Or is she mad?
The writing in this novel is great. There are some stunning lines, and I soon discovered I needed to deface the book lovingly mark these up. I will share with you one such extract I just flipped to now:
‘Dark, cavernous holes gape where the eyes once were. Inside lies a white-grey cave. The thoughts and fears that echoed are gone. No tumult, no strife remains, only bone. How trivial our mortal cares are, when all is said and done.’ (page 57)
This book is told from each woman’s perspective, one having a chapter or two, followed by the other’s point of view in the next. I always enjoy this style of narrative, and it was done well. I did find at times I enjoyed Ruth’s points of view more, but I feel that this is reasonably inevitable. All the characters are well developed and multifaceted. They are interesting and complex, and even the unlikable ones drew me in and compelled me to learn their stories.
This novel pulled me in straight away and I was eager to return to it every time I put it down. The mystery aspect is done very well. Towards the end, I could not read fast enough, and as I type, I am feeling a tad sleepy after a late night of reading! Also, the focus on life as a seamstress and the study of phrenology added topics that were unique and interesting.
There is a Margaret Atwood-vibe, so if you enjoy that dark, suspense style of writing, I definitely recommend this novel. That said, I recommend this to anyone who wants a book that holds you and opens your eyes to what life was like for many people in the 1800s. It is a great blend of historical, gothic and suspense fiction, and has made me keen to read more gothic fiction (a genre I have not explored in depth). I also am keen to read more of Laura Purcell’s books. Have you read any of her others?
I urge you to give this one a go! I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.
Phrenology in a novel is pretty cool! It’s the sign of a good book when you want to keep reading & going back for more. I also think it takes a talented author to pull off that format, with different perspectives between chapters, so this sounds like a really interesting & engaging read! Very nicely reviewed 🙂
Thanks Caz! It is a really great book, and as you say, the author is very talented! I want to get to her other books asap! x