When I originally picked this book for review, I’m pretty sure the description wasn’t as detailed as it is now, particularly in regards to abusive husbands and a dress that “possesses” people. If it had been, I may have passed it up, which would have been the right decision as it turns out, because this book wasn’t really for me.
To begin with, the main characters were all fairly one-dimensional, and the two historical women were unlikeable to boot—bitter, scheming, adulterous, and quite happy to stay that way. I felt a little more sympathetic toward Fen, who wasn’t unlikeable so much as uninspiring. At first, her kleptomania sparked my intellectual interest, but that dwindled as the story progressed and it became clear it wasn’t going to be explored in any kind of meaningful way. Most disappointing of all, none of these characters experienced any growth during the course of the story. Their circumstances may have changed by the end, but they were essentially the same in character despite there being ample room for improvement.
The plot intrigued me to begin with, but as the story developed, it became easier to predict the twists and turns so that there was very little that surprised me. The supernatural element also seemed weak, perhaps because it was only a small part of the plot even though the entire story hinged on believing in the supernatural properties of the dress and a random time-travel “portal” scene at the beginning. Then again, I don’t tend to read books with supernatural elements, so perhaps I’m not the best judge.
The writing was okay for the most part, but there were times when it felt stilted, and it lacked the colour and nuance that can really bring a story to life for me. This may have been deliberate to some extent, as it seemed to suit the mood of the characters and the story, but either way, it’s not really my style. On the plus side, there was only very occasional coarse language, but there was also a scene with the historical characters that felt just as sullying as coarse language—perhaps even more so. Thankfully, it was brief and minimally graphic, but I often found myself wanting to detoxify somehow after spending time with the historical characters anyway. Definitely not my people!
So, not really my kind of story at all. But the author did use the word vertiginous, and I’ve decided that word needs to be used more often. So there’s that.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.