Author: Julie Cohen
Publisher: 14th July 2020 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 343 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 cups
A moving and gripping story about three women who keep unspeakable truths, from the Richard & Judy recommended bestselling author Julie Cohen.
Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her - and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . .
Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them - but Victorian society is no place for reckless women.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight.
Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom?
‘Viola recalled a lifetime of kneeling by her father, witnessing this miracle when a moment became fixed in time forever. It was chemistry, pure science; but watching this, it was quite easy to believe that it was magic instead. Childhood captured, innocence inscribed on glass, a fairy made out of a living, breathing child.’
I have read and enjoyed Julie Cohen's writing before as I find it quite insightful and, although different in some aspects, this book is similarly engaging. I don’t think the synopsis really captures the essence of this book, as it does not even mention one of the main characters, so be prepared to venture off into unknown territory.
This story is told from multiple POV and in varying timelines with different locations. At its heart it is a tale about grief, loss and finding love in unthought of places and people. Set in Victorian England, it therefore breaches what would be the expected social codes of the time. Julie took the opportunity to use the spiritualism versus science platform as a window into a society that was on the cusp of some significant changes. This makes for very interesting historical reading.
As stated previously, the synopsis fails to include some vital details, another of which is the time spent in India. Yes, this book focuses on Viola and Henriette as outlined, however, Viola's husband - Jonah - is for me, perhaps, the most interesting character. His life and what he experienced in India are both important and pivotal to the story. The mystery as to why he cannot open up to his wife is slowly revealed, and despite the questionable ending, is most engaging.
This story is slow to unfurl as all the characters and their history are told. However, once the story does get going the puzzle pieces move around the storyboard for a worthy and well told tale - love in its many forms, Victorian social mores, guilt and grief, cultural differences, religion versus science - all come to play as the three main characters undertake their story arc.
Spirited is a different style of story from Julie but at its heart it's a tale of love and acceptance. There is much to ponder from the various themes woven throughout and seen from the eyes of well thought characters. There are sure to be surprises along the way for the reader with unconventional twists making this a book worth reading.
‘What would it be like to stay here and to help make this place new ... see the past as a gift to the present, a lesson that love can teach us?’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.