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Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller - Review

Friday, October 5, 2018

While wandering round the library last week I picked this up. It's new, I was only the second borrower, and the cover appealed to me. I've previously read Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, and I know I've got Swimming Lessons to read from Netgalley, so I thought I'd pick this up. I loved it, I'm really glad I caught sight of it on the shelf!

It's set in 1969, our protagonist is Frances, who is 39 in 1969. She has recently lost her mother and gets the opportunity to leave London. She is offered a job at Lyntons, a crumbling stately home in the countryside, and tasked with cataloguing the gardens and the follies and so forth in it. At Lyntons she meets Peter and Cara, an odd couple with strange backgrounds. Peter has been given the job of cataloguing everything inside the house. Conditions are austere - all three must sleep on army beds and sit on packing cases. Frances has been given rooms upstairs in the attic, and when she loses an earring she realises that one floorboard is loose. Upon inspection she finds a hole into Peter and Cara's bathroom and is unable to resist watching them.

The three become somewhat unlikely friends and Frances starts to hear Cara's story about how she and Peter met. The summer wears on, oppressively, while Frances hears strange noises at night and sees faces at windows.

Meanwhile, twenty years later, Frances is dying, and suffering from confusion in her surroundings. She is visited by Victor, the vicar from the church near Lyntons, who wants to tease out of her what really happened that summer.

The book has more than a bit of the gothic about it, a definite feel of a writer like Daphne du Maurier. I couldn't put it down, it kept me turning the pages. I liked Our Endless Numbered Days a lot but I feel like this is lots better. I liked Frances and really understood her as a character, even while I didn't agree with everything she did. I'm giving it five out of five for being so good!

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