Book review: House of Glass by Susan Fletcher

Ahead of this year’s Lincoln Book Festival, we’ll be featuring book reviews of some of the exciting new titles from authors in our 2019 line-up. The first review comes from Dr Claudia Capancioni, Lincoln Book Festival Trustee and Senior Lecturer in English at Bishop Grosseteste University, who has been reading House of Glass by Susan Fletcher.


House of Glass
by Susan Fletcher
2018
Virago Press
£16.99, hardcover
£8.99, paperback

A true page-turner, House of Glass has a most original, captivating narrator and courageous, young heroine, Clara Waterfield, whose story begins with pain, loneliness and loss in 1914. She experiences unusual challenges but the strength of her character and of her narrative voice beguiles the reader. Susan Fletcher’s latest novel is gripping and surprising: it is original and unpredictable. It offers new ways to re-imagine historical events that are so well known. When Clara’s story ends you want to know more about her and Shadowbrook, one of the houses the novel’s title evokes.

Clara, like Susan Fletcher, investigates the past to uncover mysterious stories that ought to be told. However, House of Glass is so much more than the haunting Gothic story most reviews highlight. This is a coming of age novel that questions parenthood and the value of imperfection; it is a story of discovery, of desire, and of female independence. Even the main events of the First World War remain in the background, because the focus is on a bookish, fragile young girl who turns into the novel’s heroine. Fletcher delights with an amazing sensory narrative in which you can hear, smell as well as visualise the countryside round Barcombe-on-the-Hill, a village whose prejudices do not stop Clara’s quest, and the exotic plants Clara takes care of as we move with her from the Palm House at Kew Gardens to Shadowbrook’s glasshouse in Gloucestershire.

It was at the Lincoln Book Festival that I discovered the writing of Susan Fletcher and this year I look forward to her presentation on her best endeavour yet in transforming the personal life of an ordinary individual into the most thought-provoking narrative. Clara trusts books and you can trust Fletcher’s House of Glass to widen your horizon too.

Reviewed by Dr Claudia Capancioni


 

Susan Fletcher will be at Lincoln Book Festival on Saturday 28th September in a two-part author event, Of Houses and Ghosts, with Baroness Hogg. The event at Lincoln Drill Hall begins at 6.15pm with tickets priced £10. See the festival programme for details and booking.