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review 2016-10-30 06:17
Book Review: The House of Velvet and Glass
The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe

Book: The House of Velvet and Glass


Author: Katherine Howe


Genre: Historical Fiction/Spiritualism


Summary: Boston 1915. Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in a town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl seeks answers in the depths of a medium’s crystal ball. When her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange woman, Sibyl seeks out psychology professor Benton Derby, despite an unspoken tension from their shared past. As they work together to solve a harrowing mystery, they realize that there may be something more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass. From the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown to the salons of high society, from the back alleys of colonial Shanghai to the decks of the Titanic, The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist that will leave the reader breathless. -Hyperion, 2012


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review 2014-06-15 16:04
"The House of Velvet and Glass", by Katherine Howe
The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe

“The House of Velvet and Glass”, a historical fiction set in 1915 Boston is a thoughtful journey that transports us to the turn of the twentieth century. The story captures a moment in time and executes meticulously period details as we are whisked between colonial Shanghai to the luxurious halls of the Titanic, the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown and the opulent salons of its upper crust. 

Richly written to create lush descriptions and vivid characterization the story inserts us into the Allston’s family saga. Told in three parts: flashback aboard the Titanic, during lan Allston’s, head of the family, time in China as a young sailor and from Sybil’s, the older daughter, point of view.

This is primarily Sibyl’s story, a young woman torn from the loss of her mother and sister since the sinking of the Titanic and is now driven to seek answers from a crystal ball (scrying glass) given to her by a medium during a séance. While the story unfolds we are enveloped with a wonderful prose and an amalgam of tragic stories. Although not a lot of action takes place and the pacing is rather slow I never thought this was a boring read at any time, on the contrary. It is so filled with interesting characters and unique look into the spiritualism of the period that curiosity took hold and never let go. Some may say Ms. Howe rambles a lot and the core plot may be lacking but in whole “The House of Velvet and Glass” is an interesting read..

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review 2013-04-08 22:32
The House of Velvet and Glass
The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe not a Titanic fan as a rule, loved the Shanghai connection. Read in one sitting (reclining, actually). How free are we really?
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review 2013-03-03 00:00
The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe I'm really sadden. Howe's first book was really good! But this book was more like a 1.5 star book. It just did move... It was so slow.
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review 2012-09-12 00:00
The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe The story of the Allston family is narrated in three threads. The reader spends time with Helen and daughter Eulah on the Titanic on that last fateful day in 1912; time with daughter Sibyl, her father Lan and brother Harlan from 1915 and an interlude in Shanghai in 1868. Underlying them is psychic ability, addiction, burden and sometimes peace that comes with knowledge.

The writing draws us in to this historical time with it’s description of décor, fashions, environment and societies expectations. Sibyl’s home, the Titanic, and 1868 Shanghai comes to life as does the expectations of Boston’s elite set.

Sibyl taking on the burden of the home is wonderfully portrayed. She has locked the adventurous person she was deep inside and presents a façade to the world. Once Harlan comes home early from Harvard though, he brings change to her world. After the confinement of her duties it was brilliant to see her laughing and living life again (even her experiences of the darker side of society). The trauma of being a survivor is also portrayed really well – the author writes in such a way that we get to know Sibyl in depth.

Benton becomes Sybil’s strength after Harlan’s return and their developing relationship is tentative at first due to their background. This is a changing relationship I enjoyed being a part of.

My feelings towards Lan changed – from a father who I thought was disinterested in the life of his family and held himself apart – to a person with a burden that he had tried to hide. I loved the way his relationship with Sibyl changed through the course of the story. This father/daughter combination is very inspiring!

The author cleverly disguises the Shanghai interlude. It wasn’t until I was about three quarters through the story that I made the connection!

I must admit, I was fascinated by the opiate scenes. Not because of the addiction but because of the outcome!

The writing is beautiful. For instance when Eulah and Harry are standing on the deck of the Titanic:

“Her eyes travelled up to the night sky, an impossibly black moonless night, the stars like tiny points of shattered crystal scattered over a dark velvet cloak.”

The House of Velvet & Glass is a fascinating journey on many levels. As well as the darkness of addiction and the pain of loss there is the coming to terms that we can not direct another’s journey through life … and that their own choices bring the most happiness. Romance, history, family, psychology and psychic abilities have all held my interest.

I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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