The Pleasures of Men | Kate Williams

The Pleasures of Men is a tale of Victorian murders, hypocrisy and inhumanity.

Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her Uncle in a rambling house in London’s East End. She has few companions and little to occupy the days beyond her own colourful imagination. But then a murderer strikes, ripping open the chests of young girls and stuffing hair into their mouths to resemble a beak, leading the press to christen him The Man of Crows. And as Catherine hungrily devours the news, she finds she can channel the voices of the dead … and comes to believe she will eventually channel The Man of Crows himself.

But the murders continue to panic the city and Catherine gradually realizes she is snared in a deadly trap, where nothing is as it first appears … and lurking behind the lies Catherine has been told are secrets more deadly and devastating than anything her imagination can conjure.

This could have been so good. This should have been so good. But I am all disappointment.

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The Painted Bridge | Wendy Wallace

The Painted Bridge  by Wendy Wallace is a novel that neatly fits into a type of book I am addicted to – ‘Spunky Victorian Girl in Trouble’. The trouble in this case is that Anna Palmer’s husband has – against her knowledge and consent – installed her in a private asylum because he believes she is ‘hysterical’.

Confused and angry, Anna is determined to prove her sanity, but with her husband and doctors unwilling to listen, her freedom will notbe easily won. As the weeks pass, she finds other allies: a visiting physician who believes the new medium of photography may reveal the state of a patient’s mind; a longtime patient named Talitha Batt, who seems, to Anna’s surprise, to be as sane as she is; and the proprietor’s bookish daughter, who also yearns to escape.

Yet the longer Anna remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing and no one is quite as it appears. Not her fellow patients, her husband, her family—not even herself. Locked alone in her room, driven by the treatments of the time into the recesses of her own mind, she may discover the answers and the freedom she seeks . . . or how thin the line between madness and sanity truly is.

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The End of Everything | Megan Abbott

The End of Everything was sold to me by my good friend Scarlett Parrish describing it as ‘Lolita as written by Ruth Rendell.’ I started reading it as a reward for reaching 10k on my novel today, and didn’t stop till I was finished. Yes, it’s one of those.

Ultimately, The End of Everything is a story about the period directly following the abduction of a young girl, as told by her best friend. Complete with the sort of details about the hazy, dazy world of childhood and pubescence that only the unsentimental remember, it feels utterly honest and true. From the descriptions of the early stages of sexual development, to the simple, romantic imaginings of girls of that age, everything fitted neatly into a slot I know and remember well.

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