I loved and devoured Katherine Howe’s first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, so when I saw her new book, The House of Velvet and Glass, I snatched it up. And I was not disappointed.
In this historical novel, set in Boston in 1915 (one of my favorite cities and favorite time period), Sibyl Allston grieves the loss of her mother and sister on the Titanic. Left to run the daily monotony of her family’s elegant town house in Boston’s Back Bay, Sibyl must deal with her grief, her taciturn father and her rebellious brother.
Seeking solace, Sibyl frequents the home of a spirit medium and is given a crystal scrying glass. But when images start to appear in the glass Sibyl must decide if it’s just the affects of the opium or something even more mysterious.
The narrative switches between scenes with the mother and sister on the Titanic, the father’s life as a young sailor and the present with Sibyl. The story is full of wonder, mystery and romance. Like in Physick Book, Howe’s prose is intoxicating and lovely. As a huge fan of the Masterpiece Classics series, Downton Abbey, (best show ever!!) I was drawn to the time period and the events surrounding the Titanic. Howe has a masterful skill of weaving historical detail into her narrative without it feeling too academic or just a regurgitation of fact. Although at times her descriptions do get a little lengthy, it doesn’t ever slow the pace of the novel.
A great read!
Content note: The use of the drug opium, including the use in opium dens, is a major theme of the novel, but other than that there are only a few mild swear words and a scene or two of mild violence.
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