A dark and unsettling novel for lovers of Rebecca and Jane Eyre.

THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS

In Purcell’s third creepily atmospheric historical novel, a young woman flees London under a dark cloud only to discover new threats in superstition-haunted early Victorian Cornwall.

After serving as Lady Rose Windrop’s maid in elegant Hanover Square, Esther Stevens, having assumed the name of Hester Why, is unprepared for the stark contrast of her new position as a nurse and personal maid to the silent and partially paralyzed Louise Pinecroft, mistress of the cliffside Morvoren House. In the remote, eerie mansion she finds a strange household enacting bizarre local customs. Salt lines the doorway of Rosewyn Pinecroft’s bedroom. Wearing her dress inside out, Rosewyn, Louise’s childlike adult ward, gives the startled Hester a ball of bible pages “for protection.”Creeda, Rosewyn's caretaker and the longest serving member of the staff, warns Hester against being “pixy-led.” Alternating with Hester’s increasingly unreliable first-person narrative (aided by gin and stolen laudanum) are two other storylines. One reveals Hester’s hidden guilt at the events that drove her from London. The other goes back 40 years to when a young Louise assists her grief-stricken physician father as he embarks on a radical experiment using prisoners to find a cure for the tuberculosis that killed the rest of their family. Purcell excels at creating a spooky Gothic ambience, and the wild Cornish coast with its ancient folklore makes a wonderfully evocative backdrop. She also does a good job at establishing psychological ambiguity in her characters so they (and readers) aren’t sure if what they see is real or if they are going mad.

A dark and unsettling novel for lovers of Rebecca and Jane Eyre.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313553-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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