HOUSE OF GLASS
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Historical (1914), Gothic Mystery
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.
House of Glass is a historical mystery in the vein of Jane Eyre or The Turn of the Screw. 20-year-old Clara has lived an isolated life but takes a job setting up a glasshouse at a remote estate. With mysterious sounds in the night, a village full of rumours and a house with a chequered past, Clara’s doing her best to find out what her new employer is hiding.
Clara’s a wonderful and complicated character. She’s blunt and forthright, and fiercely independent despite a sheltered upbringing. She grows over the course of the novel, becoming more open-minded and learning to see different sides to each story in a world that’s increasingly less black-and-white. The time-setting (just pre-WW1) puts her in a position to reach for independence and challenge some of the staunch social stigmas and ideas. Clara has brittle bone disease, and due to a previous fall, walks with a limp and a cane. She’s more than just her condition, but it’s well-thought out and nicely handled: affecting her outlook on life, her actions and the perceptions of other characters. The condition isn’t merely an add-on, nor does it disappear whenever the plot requires it.
Fletcher’s writing is beautiful and dreamy. The pacing is languid and she takes the time to really paint a picture of Clara’s confined childhood, the visceral pain of her grief, the oppressive heat of summer, and the creepy unease as the household experiences the ghostly happenings. I really loved how unsettled and slightly messy the ending was. There’s plenty of resolution for those who want it, but not everything gets neatly tied up a bow.
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