The sea rocked asleep, now wakes and answers, a refrain of waves and shale-song. The rain in the sky that is yet to fall, answers; a storm gathers. All the rivers and streams and bogs and lakes and fens and puddles and horse troughs and wishing wells wake and answer, adding their voices: faint and rushing, purling and gurgling, muddy and clear. The child looks up. For the first time she can see the stars! She smiles at them, and the stars look back at her and shiver. Then they begin to burn brighter, with renewed fever, in the deep dark ocean of the sky.
Things in Jars was not at all something I would usually pick, but I am so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone and dived into this dark, gory, Victorian fantasy. I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I loved the details that the author included with respect to the medical establishment...even tho it would be a far stretch to call this "historical" fiction. The atmosphere that Kidd created was tremendous, and I loved that she conjured up settings of London, Liverpool, Dublin and other places without resorting to popular cliches that make Victorian settings such a drab in lesser books.
Despite the squalor, gory details of the scenes, the cruelty displayed, and the general meanness of some of the characters, there was a whole lot of warmth in this story, too, and that made the book for me.
Things in Jars was not perfect, but I really liked it.
As with all terrible, wondrous sights, there is a jolt of shock, then a hypnotic fascination, then the uneasy queasiness, then the whole thing starts again; the desire to look and the desire never to have looked in the first place.
I've put this quote behind spoilers because this is exceedingly gross but it also made me laugh out loud because I am reminded of a discussion here on Booklikes a few years ago about the worst things one can do with jelly.
Seriously, don't click the spoiler if you are eating or intending to eat or ... you know ... are otherwise inclined to react to descriptions of gory grossness.
‘Then he lopped the doctor’s head off with the doctor’s own saw,’ he recounts. ‘And then – now here’s a puzzle – he sent the doctor’s noodle to the chef at Claridge’s. He requested that it be set in aspic.’
‘But then Mr Hoy and I realised: it’s a blue blood thing. Sir Edmund’s ancestors would have taken the heads of their foes on the battlefield and, really, what don’t nobs put in aspic?’
The story has been dragging for a bit. I hope it picks up again soon.
However, some of the descriptions are so marvellous that I don't really mind:
"London will turn Atlantis. If the rain keeps falling and the river keeps rising. In some parts the omnibus horses swish pastern-deep in water. The conductors wear galoshes and measure the floods with great officiousness using long sticks (two-foot-deep near Victoria Station, three inches at Walthamstow). In Covent Garden cabbages are yesterday’s news and sea kale is all the rage. For asparagus there’s samphire, for turnips there’s kelp.
Before the rain came, the fish had all but vacated the Thames and those that remained were slime-coated, dull of gill and gritty of flesh. Now nets teem and lines hop with the delicious: crayfish and crabs, salmon and trout. Fresh, clear-eyed and succulent!
Some people, of a morbid, catastrophising sort of disposition, say the floods, which will only worsen, are divine punishment for the orgies of sin that Londoners enjoy. Which is true: there’s plenty of sin to be had in London. The river will keep rising, they say, London will be washed away.
Mediums report an increase of communications from the drowned. They rise up squelching and inundate séances, imparting wet footprints and the faint smell of sump-water. Incidents of piracy increase tenfold. The London underworld swaps knives for cutlasses and fighting dogs for parrots. Even those with a full complement of eyes take to wearing patches."