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review 2020-01-14 14:46
Der rätselhafte Landsitz in Gloucestershire
House of Glass - Susan Fletcher

Als Kind ist es recht still um Clara Waterfield. Sie wächst behütet, aber auch isoliert in London auf, denn aufgrund der Glasknochenkrankheit darf sie nicht nach draußen. Doch als ihre Mutter stirbt, öffnet sich für die junge Frau eine völlig neue Welt. Im Sommer 1914 wird sie als Botanikerin nach Gloucestershire gerufen: Sie soll auf einem Landsitz namens Shadowbrook den Aufbau eines Gewächshauses mit exotischen Pflanzen betreuen. Der dortige Garten ist üppig bewachsen und überwältigend. Doch das alte Wohnhaus wirkt seltsam abweisend, die meisten Räume stehen leer oder sind verschlossen. Mr. Fox, der Eigentümer, ist viel auf Reisen. Und nachts scheint es im Haus zu spuken. Doch Clara glaubt nicht an Geister und macht sich daran, die Geheimnisse zu ergründen. Dabei muss sie feststellen, dass dort nichts so ist, wie es scheint.

„Das Geheimnis von Shadowbrook“ ist ein Roman von Susan Fletcher.

Meine Meinung:
Der Roman besteht aus 17 jeweils recht langen Kapiteln. Erzählt wird aus der Ich-Perspektive aus der Sicht von Clara. Die Handlung umfasst einige Jahre und endet im Februar 1918. Der Aufbau funktioniert gut.

Der Schreibstil ist anschaulich, bildhaft und sehr atmosphärisch, aber zum Teil auch ausschweifend. Der Einstieg fiel mir nicht schwer. Die Geschichte nimmt jedoch nur sehr langsam Fahrt auf.

Mit Clara gibt es eine reizvolle Protagonistin, die durchaus authentisch dargestellt wird, aber mir nicht auf Anhieb sympathisch war. Auch die übrigen Charaktere sind größtenteils interessant gestaltet.

Thematisch hat der Roman einiges zu bieten: eine seltene Krankheit, die Botanik, mutmaßlicher Geisterspuk und andere rätselhafte Dinge, eingebettet in die Kulisse der Zeit vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg.

Alles in allem ist die Geschichte abwechslungsreich und unterhaltsam. An einigen Stellen ist der mehr als 400 Seiten umfassende Roman jedoch etwas langatmig, weil die Handlung zwischendurch an Tempo verliert. Auch die Auflösung der Geheimnisse konnte mich nicht ganz überzeugen.

Die optische Gestaltung der gebundenen Ausgaben wirkt hochwertig und spricht mich sehr an. Der deutsche Titel weicht zwar stark vom englischsprachigen Original ab („House of Glass"), gefällt mir aber sehr gut.

Mein Fazit:
„Das Geheimnis von Shadowbrook“ von Susan Fletcher ist ein Roman mit vielen Stärken, aber auch einigen Schwächen. Eine ungewöhnliche Lektüre, die meine Erwartungen nicht voll erfüllen konnte, aber mich trotzdem gut unterhalten hat.

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review 2018-10-31 12:36
A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole
House of Glass - Susan Fletcher

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.

I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in more detail, I realised I could use almost word by word the same title for my review, although the subject of the novel is quite different. “A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel.” Yes, this definitely applies to House of Glass as well. This time the story is set in the UK right before the breaking of the First World War, and in fact, there are rumours spreading about its likelihood already when the novel starts. It is a fascinating time, and the life of the protagonist, Clara Waterfield, is deeply affected by the historical period she has to live in, from her birth in very late Victorian times, to what would be a very changed world after the Great War, with the social upheaval, the rapid spread of industrialization, the changing role of women, and the all-too-brief peace.

Clara, who tells the story in the first person, is a great creation, who becomes dearer and dearer to us as we read the book. This is not a novel about a protagonist who is fully-formed, recognisable and unchanging, and runs across the pages from one action scene to the next hardly pausing to take a breather. Clara reflects upon her past (although she is very young, she has suffered greatly, but not lived much), her condition (she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bones, and that meant that she was kept indoors and not exposed to the risks and dangers of the outside world, the London streets in her case throughout her childhood), her family, and life experiences or her lack of them. No matter what she looks like, her short stature, her difficulty walking, her limitations in physical activity, this is a determined woman, make no mistake. She has learned most of what she knows through books (non-fiction mostly, although she enjoyed the Indian tales her mother used to read her), she has experienced not only pain, but other kinds of loses, and there are secrets and mysteries surrounding her, but despite all that, she is all practical and logical when we meet her. Her lack of exposure to the real world makes her a fascinating narrator, one who looks at everything with the eyes of a new-born or an alien suddenly landed in our society, who might have theoretical knowledge but knows nothing of how things truly work, while her personality, determined and stubborn, and her enquiring nature make her perfect to probe into the mystery at the heart of Shadowbrook.

Readers might not find Clara particularly warm and engaging to begin with (despite the sympathy they might feel for her suffering, something she would hate), as she dispenses with the niceties of the period, is headstrong and can be seen as rude and unsympathetic. At some point, I wondered if there might have been more to her peculiar personality than the way she was brought up (she can be obsessive with the things she likes, as proven by her continuous visits to Kew Gardens once she discovers them, and her lack of understanding of social mores and her difficulty in reading people’s motivations and feelings seemed extreme), but she quickly adapts to the new environment, she thrives on change and challenges, she shows a great, if somewhat twisted, sense of humour at times, and she evolves and grows into her own self during the novel, so please, readers, stick with the book even if you don’t connect with her straightaway or find her weird and annoying at times.  It will be worth your while.

Her point of view might be peculiar, but Clara is a great observer of people and of the natural world. She loves her work and she is careful and meticulous, feeling an affinity for the exotic plants of the glass house, that, like her until recently, also have to live enclosed in an artificial environment for their own safety. That is partly what enhances their beauty and their rarity in our eyes. By contrast, Clara knows that she is seen as weird, lacking, less-able, and hates it. She is a deep thinker and reflects upon what she sees, other people’s behaviours, she imagines what others might be talking about, and dreams of her dead mother and soon also of the mystery behind the strange happenings at the house.

The novel has been described as gothic, and that is a very apt description, even though it is not always dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of scenes that take place in the garden, in the fields, and in the open air, but we do have the required strange happenings, creaks and noises, scratches on doors, objects and flowers behaving in unpredictable fashion, previous owners of the house with a troublesome and tragic past, a mysterious current owner who hides something, violence, murder, and plenty of rumours. We have a priest who is conflicted by something, a loyal gardener who knows more than he says, a neighbouring farmer who has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and a housekeeper who can’t sleep and is terrified. But there is much more to the novel than the usual tropes we have come to expect and love in the genre. There is social commentary; there are issues of diversity and physical disability, discussions about religious belief and spirituality, and also about mental health, women’s rights, and the destructive nature of rumours and gossip, and some others that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers.

I don’t want to give anything away, and although the story moves at a steady and contemplative pace, this in no way makes it less gripping. If anything, the beauty of the language and the slow build up work in its favour, giving us a chance to get fully immersed in the mood and the atmosphere of the place.

I marked a lot of passages, and I don’t think any of them make it full justice, but I’ve decided to share some, nonetheless:

She’d also said that there was no human perfection; that if the flaw could not be seen physically, then the person carried it inside them, which made it far worse, and I’d believed this part, at least.

For my mother had never spoken well of the Church. Patrick had said nothing at all of it. And my own understanding had been that imperfect bodies were forms of godly punishment; that imperfect meant I was worth less somehow. I’d disliked this notion intensely. Also, I was not a spare rib.

I could not taste fruit from studying a sketch of it, cut in half. What use was only reading of acts and not doing them? Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.


The ending… We find the solution to the mystery, (which I enjoyed, and at the time I wondered why the book did not finish at that point) but the novel does not end there, and we get to hear what happened in the aftermath of the story. And yes, although at first, I wasn’t sure that part was necessary, by the end of the book proper I was crying and felt as if I was leaving a close friend in Clara, one that I was convinced would go on to lead a happy life.

Another fantastic novel by Susan Fletcher, one I recommend to fans of gothic novels, of Daphne du  Maurier’s Rebecca and her other novels, of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and of inspiringly gorgeous writing. I do not recommend it to readers who prefer an action-laden plot with little space for thought or reflexion, although why not check a sample of the book and see for yourselves? I must catch up on the rest of the author’s novels and I hope there will be many more to come.

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review 2017-02-01 00:00
Corrag - Susan Fletcher There is a stillness and beauty to Susan Fletcher's writing that will enchant the reader and take your breath away with beautiful vivid descriptions of the Scottish Highlands and a tale that will transport you to another time and place. Prepare to be bewitched

Corrag is the story of a young woman who has witnessed the horrific massacare of Glencoe on a winters dawn in 1692, where William IIIs redcoats brutally slaughtered 32 of the McDonald's Men Women and Children Clan. The reason for the massacre was their loyalty to the exiled Catholic James II, however sadly for the McDonalds a signed oath of their allegiance to William the III has been signed six days too late and the punishment is devastating.

The story is passionately and beautifully told by Corrag (who has been branded a witch and imprissioned ) to the visiting Irish Political Activist Charles Leslie who is secretely gathering evidence against King William of Orange.
The novel is full of lyrical and poetic prose and the descriptions of Scottish Highlands will have you think you are right there among the mountains and glens and smelling the heather and herbs.
Corrag herself is a wonderful free spirited character who dwells in her world without Kings and religion to answer to and she lives her life doing good and carrying on the traditions of her mother and those that have gone before her.

I listened to this Book on audio and the narration was very good and very easy to follow.
A great read for anyone who enjoys novels set in Scotland or readers who enjoy historical fiction where a story is created around an epic event.

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review 2016-06-03 13:03
Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew - Susan Fletcher

My thanks to Virago for the review copy. The following review is my honest opinion of the novel.


Jeanne Trabuc has spent the last 30 years married to Charles Trabuc, warden of the hospital Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, an asylum in Provence. She has spent those years raising children, seeing them leave for new lives. She keeps house, avoids the gossip of the women at the market and complies with Charles' rule that she does not interact with the patients. But then a new patient arrives, a painter, troubled and suffering from a grievous self-inflicted injury. Jeanne finds herself drawn to this man with the bright red hair and Dutch name. As she gets to know the painter her staid life begins to change.

Just as Vincent in his paintings uses layers of colours to create the whole, his friendship with Jeanne highlights her layers. She re-discovers the girl she used to be, doing handstands in the town square, reflects on her relationship with her beloved father and assesses her relationship with Charles. I want to be careful not to reveal too much about the story as the joy of the book really is in following Jeanne's journey of self-discovery.


This is not really a story about Vincent Van Gogh. He is the catalyst that starts Jeanne's journey of self-discovery, or more aptly, re-discovery. His friendship with the older woman ignites in her the sense of freedom and liberation she once had and sets her mind to wondering what more life can have to offer her.


Susan Fletcher uses such vivid descriptions I could easily imagine the scenes played out in the novel, imagined them as if Van Gogh himself had painted them using his bright oil paints and unique style. Vincent is portrayed as a conflicting character, self-centred when it comes to his art, often aloof yet slowly he becomes more open with the warden's wife, allowing glimpses into his life and his mental health.


The characterisation in the novel is spot on. I could easily imagine the nuns wandering the asylum, the troubled colleague of Charles, and the gossiping women of the market, staring at Jeanne and whispering as she walked by. Charles is an interesting character, a war veteran, who's hard, unyielding exterior may hide hidden emotions, hinted at by his reaction to the departure of his youngest son. I could easily envisage Vincent, straw hat atop his fiery red hair, beard speckled with paint as he stood before his easel. As for Jeanne, she is of course the focus of this novel and slowly comes alive as the reader discovers more about her. I soon found myself enchanted with the world of Jeanne Trabuc. She seems both younger than her years but world weary, practical yet romantic and she was a joy to read.


This really is a well-written, engaging, wonderful tale of friendship, love and acceptance. It is the first novel by Susan Fletcher I have read. I will be seeking out her others. Highly recommended.

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review 2016-06-02 13:24
Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher
Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew - Susan Fletcher


Provence, May 1889. The hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole is home to the mentally ill. An old monastery, it sits at the foot of Les Alpilles mountains amongst wheat fields, herbs and olive groves. For years, the fragile have come here and lived quietly, found rest behind the shutters and high, sun-baked walls.

Tales of the new arrival - his savagery, his paintings, his copper-red hair - are quick to find the warden's wife. From her small white cottage, Jeanne Trabuc watches him - how he sets his easel amongst the trees, the irises and the fields of wheat, and paints in the heat of the day.

Jeanne knows the rules; she knows not to approach the patients at Saint-Paul. But this man - paint-smelling, dirty, troubled and intense - is, she thinks, worth talking to. So ignoring her husband's wishes, the dangers and despite the word mad, Jeanne climbs over the hospital wall. She will find that the painter will change all their lives.

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew is a beautiful novel about the repercussions of longing, of loneliness and of passion for life. But it's also about love - and how it alters over time.

I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is that Susan Fletcher manages to write a story about Vincent van Gogh's stay at the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole and his meetings with Jeanne Trabuc, and yet Fletcher doesn't let Vincent take over the story. That could easily have happened, he is a charismatic man, but the book is pretty much Jeanne's story, her recollections about her childhood, her marriage life as she steals away moments to talk to the mad painter. Meetings she is forbidden since her husband doesn't want her to meet the patients, but she does it anyway. 
And through the book we get to know Jeanne, the girl she was, and the woman she is now. Her life with her husband, and her three  now grown children. It's the meetings with Vincent van Gogh that makes her realize what she is missing in life, he brings the world to her and Jeanne starts to change, and suddenly the silent woman isn't so silent anymore. But, can she make her husband see that the changes are for the good that she is turning into the woman she used to be?
This is a book I'm very glad I read. Fletcher has a way of writing that makes the story come alive, there is a flow in the text and I can easily image everything she has written. She describes the houses, the people, the country, and the paintings well, 
I liked this book very much. I liked that the story is about an ordinary woman that for a short while knew one of the greatest painters that have ever lived. I loved the cover to the book with Jeanne and the painting of Starry Night, I didn't know that Vincent van Gogh painted some of his most famous work at the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole including Starry Night. 
I want to thank Virago for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!
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