House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

1. First lines. 2. Published 2018 Virago and Hatchett Australia 3. Image from page 462 of “Woman in girlhood, wifehood, motherhood; her responsibilities and her duties at all periods of life; a guide in the maintenance of her health and that of her children” (1906) [No known copyright restrictions] via flickr 4. Stairs-old-gloomy By Tama66 [Free for commercial use; no attribution required] via Pixabay 5. Rosa multiflora carnea By Pierre-Joseph Redouté [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
Creaking floorboards, footsteps in the night, smashes and screams, doors closing unaided, and scratchings at bedroom doors. Ghosts? Or something else?

Clara Waterfield leads a sheltered life in London with her mother and stepfather, who protect her from injuries that often occur due to the condition, Osteogenesis Imperfecta. When her mother dies, Clara finds joy in tending the plants at Kew Gardens. She is asked to go to Shadowfields Manor in Gloucestershire to set up a glasshouse there for the owner, Mr Fox. On arrival she is warned by some of the local people of strange unexplained occurrences that intrigue her and she seeks the truth.

There is nowhere like this. I had seen nothing of the world but I felt sure of that. I fingered the metalwork of the gate which led to the beechwoods; I stood beneath the cedar of Lebanon, looked into the dark cavities of branches to where woodpigeons roosted and stared back. And I entered a courtyard of light to find topiary trees within it; four shapes of privet which had, once, been birds but they were less birdlike now. Time had lengthened their feathers. Wind and drought and English rain had hollowed them – yet they retained a sense of themselves. And I liked them for this, as I circled them. Imperfect, yet they had endured.”

“There’s proof of the soul if one opens one’s eyes.”

“For war may only be formed of three letters yet it knows how to dismantle the lives of those who live through it, and so little is how it used to be. Some things may seem unchanged: the drinking trough is still greenish; the splintery, discoloured bull still stares out from the tavern’s sign and the names on the weathered graves in St Mary’s are no different. But look closer, and there are changes everywhere.”

  • Guardian: “Susan Fletcher writes well researched and intricate fiction set in beautifully observed landscapes … There is much to admire, but for me this is not Fletcher’s best work.”

Other edition.

Author: Susan Fletcher

Note: The main character, Clara Waterfield, has the genetic bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, (more commonly, Brittle Bones). Visit the website, Brittle Bone Society for more information about this disorder. The setting for the story is based on Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire, England, and Clara learns about plants at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.

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