Well, this is going to be a difficult book to write about! At first it seemed it was going to be one of those atmospheric Victorian-style novels I love (similar to Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Quincunx by Charles Palliser or The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox). It begins with two children, Charlotte and James Norbury, growing up in Yorkshire in a large country house complete with fountains, statues and secret chambers. When their father dies, Charlotte continues to live on the estate with an aunt while James goes away to school and then to university.
Trying to build a career for himself in London as a poet and playwright, James is befriended by the handsome Christopher Paige who will soon come to play an important part in his life. But when tragedy strikes, James becomes embroiled with the mysterious Aegolius Club…and this is where I’ll have to stop. From this point onwards the story goes in an unexpected direction and becomes something very different from what it had originally appeared to be. I can’t even tell you what the title of the novel, The Quick, means because that in itself is a spoiler.
I’m not sure whether keeping the true nature of this book hidden is a good idea or a bad idea. On the one hand, it means it will be read by people like myself who might not have picked it up otherwise, but on the other hand they may decide not to continue reading once the truth is revealed – while people who do like this type of book could be missing out on reading it. However, the publishers have obviously tried to create an air of mystery around it, so I respect their decision and will not give anything away!
I enjoyed this book up to the big plot twist but not so much afterwards. This was not necessarily because of the twist itself, but more due to the fact that at this stage we leave James and Charlotte behind for a while and are introduced to a new set of characters. Who was this Augustus Mould whose diary I found myself reading? What about Adeline Swift who suddenly begins narrating eleven chapters into the book? These things are explained, of course, and we do learn who these people are, but it meant that when the narrative eventually switched back to Charlotte or James I had lost the connection I’d felt with those two characters at the beginning.
The way the book ended took me by surprise and now I’m wondering if there’s going to be a sequel. If so, I’ll have to decide whether I want to read it, but if not then I’ll be interested to see what Lauren Owen writes next. I did like her writing and if this book had just been the straightforward neo-Victorian novel it seemed to be at first, I think I would have loved it.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.