REVIEW: The Silk House

It’s time for a nice Gothic mystery and this book by Kayte Nunn seemed to fit the bill nicely.

To start with I liked the cover. I do often choose books by their cover. It told me the book was ‘haunting’ and I do like a nice ghost story.

Kayte Nunn was born in Singapore, brought up in the UK and the USA and now lives in Australia.

This is her fifth of seven novels published to date and her third – The Botanist’s Daughter – was an international best seller. I’m pretty sure I have it on a bookshelf waiting to be read but I think I’d like to read The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant first.

But back to The Silk House.

Modern day and young Australian teacher Thea Rust takes a job as a history teacher at the exclusive Oxleigh College in England, the school her late father attended. The school is taking its first intake of girls – sixth formers – and Thea inadvertently ends up as their housemistress in The Silk House, off school grounds and in the centre of the village.

1768 and Rowan Caswell leaves her village home and finds domestic work at the home of a silk merchant so she can send money home for her mother and young brothers. She is talented in herbs and healing, skills her mother taught her, but witchcraft is a dangerous game in 1768.

In London that same year, Mary-Louise Stephenson is designing fabrics and trying to break into a male dominated world. Influenced by nature, she produces a design that incorporates a pattern of poisonous flowers. It has shocking consequences for the residents of The Silk House.

This is a tale of persecution, of seeking redemption and how the lives of those who inhabit it can seep their way into the fabric of a building.

Details of the processes of silk design and of herbalism were really interesting and, although I guessed that a supporting character was a ghost quite early on in the book, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment in any way because there were plenty more tangents for me to go down.

I also enjoyed the time line switches, learning a little from the modern chapters and then more from the historical ones.

Getting to know the three strong female characters was a pleasure, there were some interesting secondary characters and generally enjoyed the book as a whole.

Not my favourite Gothic or historical novel but a good read nonetheless.

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