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House of Glass (2018)

por Susan Fletcher

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839325,652 (3.92)3
June 1914 and a young woman - Clara Waterfield - is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn - and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper and maids seem afraid. And soon, Clara understands their fear: for something - or someone - is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook's dark interior - and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing - not even the men who claim they wish to help her - is quite what it seems. Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.… (mais)
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Im Sommer 1914 wird die junge Botanikerin Clara Waterfield von London nach Gloucestershire gerufen: Sie soll auf einem Landsitz namens Shadowbrook den Aufbau eines Gewächshauses mit exotischen Pflanzen aus den Kew Gardens betreuen. Der Garten, in dem das Gewächshaus stehen soll, ist überwältigend, üppige Hortensien, Fingerhut und Rosen drängen sich um gepflegte Rasenflächen, auf den Teichen schwimmen Seerosen, alles scheint vor Leben geradezu zu sprühen. Doch das alte, mit Glyzinien bewachsene Wohnhaus wirkt seltsam abweisend, die meisten Räume stehen leer oder sind verschlossen, der Eigentümer Mr. Fox ist viel auf Reisen. Haushälterin und Dienstmädchen wirken verängstigt – denn nachts scheint es im Haus zu spuken. Doch Clara ist unerschrocken und glaubt nicht an Geister, und so macht sie sich daran, die Geheimnisse des Hauses zu ergründen. Und während sie sich immer tiefer in die Geschichte Shadowbrooks verstrickt, muss sie feststellen, dass dort nichts so ist, wie es scheint …
  ela82 | Mar 23, 2024 |
A house is meant to be a place of safety and intimacy. The haunted house is a powerful symbol of horror precisely because it shows us a haven of domesticity upturned by an intruder, and a supernatural one at that. It is hardly surprising that from being just one of many Gothic tropes, the haunted house eventually became the basis of a rich supernatural sub-genre.

House of Glass is a historical novel within this tradition. It is set just before the outbreak of the First World War and features a sprawling mansion – Shadowbrook – marked by dark, old rumours about its previous owners, the evil and hated Pettigrew family. The last Pettigrew to inhabit Shadowbrook was the sensual, decadent and possibly mad Veronique - her ghost still walks its corridors and the pages of this book. So far, so familiar. Indeed, this novel shares many elements with other books within the (sub-)genre. It has been compared to Du Maurier’s Rebecca but I would say that its mixture of Gothic thrills, historical novel and social commentary is closer in spirit to Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger. What makes House of Glass particularly original is its protagonist and narrator, Clara Waterfield. Conceived out of wedlock in India, and born in England where her mother Charlotte is dispatched to avoid a scandal, Clara suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta or “brittle bones disease”, a condition which causes fractures at the least pressure or impact. As a result, Clara lives a secluded London childhood, fiercely protected by her parents. The premature death of her mother thrusts Clara into adulthood. Notwithstanding her syndrome, her walking cane and ungainly gait, Clara ventures out into the world. The gardens at Kew become her refuge and she finds herself turning into an amateur botanist – “amateur” in the best sense of the word, that of a lover of knowledge. This earns her the respect, friendship and support of Forbes, the foreman of the glasshouses. It also leads to an unexpected invitation. One day, Clara is summoned to Gloucestershire by the new owner of Shadowbrook, to oversee the installation of exotic plants from Kew in a new greenhouse in the mansion’s gardens. It is here that the ghost story proper begins. For Clara finds herself surrounded by mystery and secrets, by things that go bump in the night and malevolent attacks by an unseen visitor. The housekeeper and maids cower in fear of the ghost of Veronique Pettigrew, a woman seemingly so evil that a mere mention of her name is enough to unleash poltergeist activity. Clara is sceptical but her rationalist approach is put under severe test. That summer will mark her coming to age, as she questions long-held certainties and beliefs.

At one level, House of Glass is enjoyable as a good old piece of storytelling. But there is so much more to it. What struck me at first is the blend of realism and the supernatural. Shadowbrook and its gardens are inspired by the real-life Hidcote Manor Gardens (a National Trust property in Gloucestershire) and they are lovingly and minutely described. At the same time, Fletcher uses small details (closed, dust-filled rooms; peeling paint; a blood-stained billiard table) to evoke an atmosphere of fear and dread. The scene has already been set for the nocturnal visitations which considerably ratchet up the tension.

The novel also manages to take an established form and inject it with a strong dose of feminism. Clara’s condition becomes a symbol of female rebellion and resistance, her physical imperfections as transgressive as her assertiveness and inquisitiveness. There is a parallel between the “cripple” Clara and the uniquely beautiful Veronique, both of them strong women trying to hold their own in a patriarchal society. Clara ruefully notes that despite the fact that the male Pettigrews were violent and criminal, it was Veronique and her ‘sex orgies’ which gripped the attention of the sleepy village where she lived and which marked her forever as an epitome of immorality. This leads to another theme which is central to the novel, namely that of truth and falsehood, and how accounts can be manipulated to propagate the worldview favoured by their narrator.

My only reservation when reading the novel was that there are a number of narrative gear-changes late in the book. Engrossing as it is, the plot moves forward at a leisurely pace until about three-quarters in, when a raft of unexpected revelations propel the tale forward and lead us closer to the “sensation novel”. In the final chapters then, there is yet another shift, as the work ends with a meditation on war. The more I think about it, however, the more I tend to feel that my initial doubts were unfounded – the different facets of House of Glass ultimately add up to a convincing whole, held together by Fletcher’s lyrical and elegiac writing style. For this is also a story about the passing of an era, and what are ghosts if not remnants, in one way or another, of a half-remembered past?


A longer version of this review, featuring a selection of music to accompany the novel, can be found at https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2018/11/ghosts-of-evils-past-susan-fletchers.... ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
Susan Fletcher is a master at creating oddball characters that stir feelings of love and admiration in her readers. They are often, as in this case, physically deformed or physically weak, but they have inner strength that is both surprising and exhilarating. These women save themselves from their fate, albeit with the help of a few good men.

Another skill she has in spades is the ability to describe a scene or a person in only a few words and yet paint them vividly.

She faded like cloth, she shrank as if in water.

Clara Waterfield suffers from a genetic disease, a kind of brittle-bone syndrome, that makes her bones like glass, easily fractured, splintered to pieces by a touch or a fall. She is, therefore, a shielded child, knowing the world only through her books and her mother’s vivid descriptions. At twenty, having recovered enough to risk it, she ventures out into the world, cane in hand, willing to endure the stares and whispers in order to find her own life. She is employed at a crumbling manor house under restoration and the mysteries begin.

I turned out the light. I thought of his sleeves, rolled up. Of where his shirt had darkened with sweat–on either side of his spine, under his arms, the small of his back. And I knew, too, that books only offered the official terms. For, even as a child, I would stand before the map of India, learn its rivers and mountainous regions and the names of ancient capitals, and know that this was not enough; it was nothing compared to the country itself. … Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.

This book has a ghost story that needs unraveling, but it is Clara’s observant and quick mind that makes the story sing. No one is what they seem to be, and in the best tradition of Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart, we are invited to try to navigate the under-currents along with our inexperienced narrator and sort the good from the evil, past and present.

I had everything figured out, until I didn’t. I knew where the story was going, but it didn’t. I could never have guessed the ending, but it was not that that made this so wonderful to read, it was the revelations about the characters, particularly the one who wasn’t there at all.

We can think with our hearts as much as our heads–and souls, for me, were the truth. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
A house is meant to be a place of safety and intimacy. The haunted house is a powerful symbol of horror precisely because it shows us a haven of domesticity upturned by an intruder, and a supernatural one at that. It is hardly surprising that from being just one of many Gothic tropes, the haunted house eventually became the basis of a rich supernatural sub-genre.

House of Glass is a historical novel within this tradition. It is set just before the outbreak of the First World War and features a sprawling mansion – Shadowbrook – marked by dark, old rumours about its previous owners, the evil and hated Pettigrew family. The last Pettigrew to inhabit Shadowbrook was the sensual, decadent and possibly mad Veronique - her ghost still walks its corridors and the pages of this book. So far, so familiar. Indeed, this novel shares many elements with other books within the (sub-)genre. It has been compared to Du Maurier’s Rebecca but I would say that its mixture of Gothic thrills, historical novel and social commentary is closer in spirit to Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger. What makes House of Glass particularly original is its protagonist and narrator, Clara Waterfield. Conceived out of wedlock in India, and born in England where her mother Charlotte is dispatched to avoid a scandal, Clara suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta or “brittle bones disease”, a condition which causes fractures at the least pressure or impact. As a result, Clara lives a secluded London childhood, fiercely protected by her parents. The premature death of her mother thrusts Clara into adulthood. Notwithstanding her syndrome, her walking cane and ungainly gait, Clara ventures out into the world. The gardens at Kew become her refuge and she finds herself turning into an amateur botanist – “amateur” in the best sense of the word, that of a lover of knowledge. This earns her the respect, friendship and support of Forbes, the foreman of the glasshouses. It also leads to an unexpected invitation. One day, Clara is summoned to Gloucestershire by the new owner of Shadowbrook, to oversee the installation of exotic plants from Kew in a new greenhouse in the mansion’s gardens. It is here that the ghost story proper begins. For Clara finds herself surrounded by mystery and secrets, by things that go bump in the night and malevolent attacks by an unseen visitor. The housekeeper and maids cower in fear of the ghost of Veronique Pettigrew, a woman seemingly so evil that a mere mention of her name is enough to unleash poltergeist activity. Clara is sceptical but her rationalist approach is put under severe test. That summer will mark her coming to age, as she questions long-held certainties and beliefs.

At one level, House of Glass is enjoyable as a good old piece of storytelling. But there is so much more to it. What struck me at first is the blend of realism and the supernatural. Shadowbrook and its gardens are inspired by the real-life Hidcote Manor Gardens (a National Trust property in Gloucestershire) and they are lovingly and minutely described. At the same time, Fletcher uses small details (closed, dust-filled rooms; peeling paint; a blood-stained billiard table) to evoke an atmosphere of fear and dread. The scene has already been set for the nocturnal visitations which considerably ratchet up the tension.

The novel also manages to take an established form and inject it with a strong dose of feminism. Clara’s condition becomes a symbol of female rebellion and resistance, her physical imperfections as transgressive as her assertiveness and inquisitiveness. There is a parallel between the “cripple” Clara and the uniquely beautiful Veronique, both of them strong women trying to hold their own in a patriarchal society. Clara ruefully notes that despite the fact that the male Pettigrews were violent and criminal, it was Veronique and her ‘sex orgies’ which gripped the attention of the sleepy village where she lived and which marked her forever as an epitome of immorality. This leads to another theme which is central to the novel, namely that of truth and falsehood, and how accounts can be manipulated to propagate the worldview favoured by their narrator.

My only reservation when reading the novel was that there are a number of narrative gear-changes late in the book. Engrossing as it is, the plot moves forward at a leisurely pace until about three-quarters in, when a raft of unexpected revelations propel the tale forward and lead us closer to the “sensation novel”. In the final chapters then, there is yet another shift, as the work ends with a meditation on war. The more I think about it, however, the more I tend to feel that my initial doubts were unfounded – the different facets of House of Glass ultimately add up to a convincing whole, held together by Fletcher’s lyrical and elegiac writing style. For this is also a story about the passing of an era, and what are ghosts if not remnants, in one way or another, of a half-remembered past?


A longer version of this review, featuring a selection of music to accompany the novel, can be found at https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2018/11/ghosts-of-evils-past-susan-fletchers.... ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Jan 1, 2022 |
Should have been a good “gothic novel” but became tedious in the middle - having skimmed the ending it did reach some conclusions but by the I had lost interest in the characters😕 ( )
  siri51 | Aug 3, 2021 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 9 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
House of Glass is partly a cheerful romp, winking at the reader over the country house gothic motifs. Clara is a plausible and likable narrator, and the settings are flamboyant and glamorous, both in a soft-focus post-Edwardian London and in the more carefully realised Gloucestershire garden closely modelled on Hidcote, which is now in the keeping of the National Trust.....The first half is enchanting, but the novel’s pace slows towards the midpoint. More characters appear as the plot becomes convoluted, locals literally crawling out of the bushes, and though the sense that Clara is outnumbered is creepy, it’s hard to keep track of all the grumpy middle-aged men – which will matter later on. Meanwhile, the novel’s ambivalence about the supernatural brings proliferating explanations of means and motives that test a reader’s patience.....There is much to admire, but for me this is not Fletcher’s best work...The ending, which plods for more than 50 pages after the denouement,
 
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June 1914 and a young woman - Clara Waterfield - is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn - and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper and maids seem afraid. And soon, Clara understands their fear: for something - or someone - is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook's dark interior - and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing - not even the men who claim they wish to help her - is quite what it seems. Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.

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