Hachette Book Group (AU)
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The Silk House Kindle Edition
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Weaving seamlessly between past and present, and featuring the powerful narrative voices of three very different women, Nunn delivers an atmospheric stunner... a multi-layered and suspense-packed ghost story full of shapes, shadows, ethereal music, bumps in the night and restless spirits. ― Lancashire Post --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B084ZRMDSD
- Publisher : Hachette Australia (30 June 2020)
- Language : English
- File size : 1158 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 325 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 73,467 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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The story effortlessly steps between today and historical events. The characters are utterly believable, the settings rich enabling the reader to “see“ the colours and “walk” through the house. Is there anything better than coming to the end of a book that leaves you wanting more (in a good way).
This story moves between the present day and the latter part of the 18th century. Thea Rust arrives from Australia to take up a teaching post at Oxleigh College. She’s given residence at Silk House, a property once owned by a prosperous silk merchant some 250 years ago. Rumours of ghosts and strange occurrences have plagued the house since its early days, resulting in occupants feeling unsettled. Thea finds herself experiencing things that go bump in the night . . . but are they real or just a result of an overactive imagination?
As Thea starts researching the history of the house, readers are transported back into time when Rowan Creswell, arrives at the house as its newest maid. Rowan is not immune to the undercurrents of the house; a master, a mistress, and a small number of servants create an intimate atmosphere where secrets can’t stay hidden for long and jealousies quickly arise. Rowan is not only skilled in plant medicine but she has The Sight, and exposing her abilities to others would leave her vulnerable. She knows to stay quiet.
It’s clear that Nunn has done her research, and it was instructive and enlightening to read about plant medicine and silk fabric design. This is done mainly through the lens of women’s experiences in these vocations. The fact that women were easily branded as witches and that women struggled to be taken as serious professionals in industry are not new concepts to me so I appreciated Nunn’s choice in giving us more than superficial information about these topics. I appreciated learning about specific plants and their uses. I appreciated learning more about fabric design.
Nunn has done a great job in weaving several stories across time and distance. The story never lagged, the plot wove nicely between past and present, and every character played an important role in the continuation of the story. Highly recommended!
Don’t you just love mysteries that feature old mansions with a dark past? Especially those creepy ones where things go bump in the night and one can never be sure if there is a rational explanation or it’s due to ghostly activity. I am happy to report that Silk House made for a perfect setting! With two timelines slowly exploring a past mystery going all the way back to the 1700s, I knew I was in for a treat.
When Australian English teacher Thea Rust arrives to take on a teaching position in an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside, she is not prepared for the dark secrets the old house is harbouring. As the reader, I had a definite advantage over Thea by being fully prepared and ready for the skeletons to come out of the closet, and I was ready for the ride!
It can’t be an easy task for any writer to weave together two separate timelines and several characters from varying backgrounds into a story that flows smoothly and keeps the reader’s interest equally through all POVs, but Nunn totally pulled this off for me. Thea, with her antipodean expectations of equality and fairness is not prepared for the misogyny and favouritism she encounters from the heads of the exclusive boarding school, who have been forced to allow girls to attend for the first time in the school’s history. I thought Thea to be a well-rounded and relatable character, her innocence (or naiveté) from growing up in a very different cultural environment obvious from the moment she first set foot onto British soil. She soon finds that Silk House, her new home, also offers something uniquely British –ghostly activity related to a 1700’s injustice that had been committed in these very walls.
The timeline set during the 1700’s opened up a fascinating chapter in English history I knew nothing about, the silk industry in the east of England in the early eighteenth century. Featuring floral patterns based on real botanical specimens, these fabrics set themselves apart from the French fashion at the time. As in Nunn’s book, history books show that a few women were among the designers, a trade dominated by males. Two of Nunn’s characters bring all aspects of this interesting chapter in British history to life: Rowan, who is maidservant to a wealthy silk merchant and a herbalist and healer in her own right; and Mary-Louise, an impoverished gentlewoman who follows her dream of becoming a fabric designer and incorporates images of real plants from the area into her elaborate designs.
Strong feminist themes, including the women’s wisdom and knowledge of healing and herbalism still feared and denounced as witchcraft among the country folk in the early 18th century, made for interesting reading and a degree of foreboding and tension as our characters me their fate. I really enjoyed the spooky element of Silk House and thought that it had even more potential to be creepy, but with such a lot of elements to the story, it never quite played centre stage. My only disappointment was that the ending felt rushed and abrupt, and the very clever and unexpected twist towards the finale got a bit lost in the tying up of the many plot points. Some of the characters’ interactions towards the end also suffered from the rush to bring the story to a conclusion, which made it not as satisfying for me as I had hoped.
All in all, THE SILK HOUSE was a multi-layered gothic mystery, tying a centuries old secret to the present, which manifests itself in the spooky happenings of Silk House, the perfect setting for such a story. With the rich historical context of the British silk trade in the early to mid eighteenth century, the book made both for entertaining as well as fascinating reading and I feel like I learned something about a chapter in history I knew very little about. Readers who like strong female leads and feminist themes will appreciate the rich cast of characters here who are each fearless in their pursuit of their dreams and destinies.
Top reviews from other countries
In the present day Thea Rust arrives from Australia to teach at Oxleigh College, an exclusive boarding school. She is also assigned to look after the school’s first intake of girls. As such she is to stay with them in the Silk House, a converted silk factory from the 18th century. Yet the house is hiding secrets that are waiting to be discovered...
In 1768 Rowan Caswell leaves her village to seek work and is employed in the home of Mr. Hollander, an English silk merchant. She wants to live a quiet life but her skills with herbs and healing soon places her in a precarious situation. The witch trials may have formally ended but there is still suspicion about women like Rowan.
In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson dreams of becoming a silk designer, though being a woman no one will consider her designs. Then she is approached by Hollander, who commissions her designs in silk. A length of fabric that she produces with a pattern of deadly flowers will have shocking consequences for those who dwell at the Silk House.
I enjoyed this very much and felt that Kayte Nunn created compelling characters and evoked her period setting well. I found that the narrative moved fluidly between the 18th and 21st Centuries. Nunn also linked the periods in small yet significant ways: like the silk bookmark that Thea finds, a recurring symbol with mysterious origins, and her research into the lives of the house’s former inhabitants.
The novel also contains plenty of details about the historical silk trade along with herbal medicines and the like.
Overall, I found it an engaging mystery with plenty of unsettling moments, things going bump in the night, and a very unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
Welcome here great atmosphere and much to intrigue in this "Then" and "Now" novel. Focus is on two newcomers. In 1768 Rowan Caswell is the new servant, she with skills best hept secret at a time full of hostility towards the slightest hint of witchcraft. In 2019 Thea Rust joins the College as history teacher, she unexpectedly appointed in charge of the girls. Resourcefully rising to the challenges, Thea nevertheless feels uneasy in the old building - certain aspects positively unsettling, epecially at night.
Vivid characterization, especially in the "Then" sections: larger than life but fatally flawed weaver Patrick Hollander; his wife Caroline, so anxious for a child; colourful cook Prudence, an asset indeed if on one's side; butcher's boy Tommy Dean, a perky friend whenever Rowan needs help. Interesting details tell of the processes leading to the creation of elaborate women's wear. (This very much a man's world, but - another fascinating character - Mary Louise Stephenson determined to alter that.)
Great drama in due course occurs in the "Then" section, all coming to light in the present as Thea delves into local history and makes disturbing discoveries of her own.
Throughout there is increasing evidence of matters most eerie, a real shock awaiting readers perhaps confidently anticipating certain twists and turns.
It fascinates to learn what gave Kayte Nunn ideas for this absorbing tale. Also good to see is how throughout women's role is vigorously championed.
Yes indeed, a great and bewitching read.
It is to be hoped, however, that Thea Rust was a better historical researcher than Katye Nunn as there are a number of glaring errors eg Isis the cat named after the Greek goddess!!!!