Spirited by Julie Cohen
Published : July 9th 2020
Publisher : Orion
Format : Kindle, Audio, Hardback, Paperback
Genre : Historical Fiction
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?
Thank you so much to Orion and Anne Cater for this stunning hardback copy and blog tour spot. I loved every page of this magical and heart rendering read.
Ok where to start with this one. I have just spent the best part of a day and a half with my head stuck in this glorious read, only breaking to feed the children and pour myself coffee...
This is such a beautiful story. Set in 1858 The three main narratives are Jonah, Viola and Henriette.
Jonah and Viola have been friends since he came to stay with Viola and her father when they were eight years old. Violas father was a minister and friends with Jonahs parents who lived back in India, his mother wanted him to have an english education so it was Violas father who would look after Jonah when he wasn't in boarding school.
Sadly Jonah's parents die of illness a couple of years later and Viola and Jonah spend every moment together as children and young adults. Jonah promises to marry Viola when they are old enough and when he comes back from his travels to deal with his fathers estates in India.
Viola calls Jonah back when her father sadly passes away and this is the beginning of the story, the two getting married after not seeing each other for the past two years, both in mourning and both weighted down by a duty that is honour bound for the sake of her deceased father.
The story throughout to begin with is mainly centred around Viola and Jonah. He has married her as promised, duty bound to take care of his oldest friend and once fiancee. But Jonah changed whilst he was living in India and he is hiding a secret that he feels he can never tell Viola for hurting her. So the pair live under the same roof, in a sterile marriage more like brother and sister than husband and wife.
Every now and then there is a chapter about Henriette. She used to be called Hetty and had a pretty bad start in life with a drunken father and then getting abused as a maid by the male staff in the house that she worked in but a lucky chance gives her the opportunity to leave the house and work for another, kinder lady in London.
Henriette gets caught up in the world of trickery and whilst playing the part on stage of a woman who has been healed by a fraudster she happens upon an older man who believes she contains the spirit of his wife who passed away years before.
Henriette plays along with this and soon he takes her away from life as a maid and makes her his wife. This is where she starts her career as Henriette Blackthorn the spiritual medium who can talk to the dead via her spirit guide Flora Bell.
The three meet one evening after being introduced by a friend over an evening of seance held by Henriette and Jonah privately seeks her out to help him overcome the grief and guilt he has that weighs him down daily from India. At the same time Viola decides to start taking photographs again using her fathers equipment.
Whilst taking a picture one day she notices that there is another in the photo after it has processed. This person was not there before and she soon discovers she can take a photo that will contain a spirit of a passed loved one. She is very uncertain at the beginning, convinced she must have made a mistake by Henriette hears of this and convinces her other wise, telling her she has a rare gift.
The two become inseparable, taking more photos for who ever asks for it, at the same time Jonahs despair seems to unravel more to the point where he has to leave, unsure what to do with himself and his grief.
Throughout the chapters of this book are also plenty of newspaper clippings of what was happening at the time. I found this fascinating and enjoyed everyone of them,
This is a story about love, regret, duty and unexplained magic.
About two women who help find each other and of deep loves that cannot be forgotten.
Why I Loved It
I loved every page of this book. The spiritual side, the romantic side and the deceptive side.
I was so pleased with the ending, I didn't expect it at all, I assumed it would go another way, which would have been fine but this one was far braver and made me close the last page with a huge smile on my face.
Jonahs character was utterly heartbreaking. He was doing the right thing by his childhood friend and his word to her dead father, but deep down he was extremely unhappy and felt he could not tell a single sole about how he was feeling and why he was so heartbroken and unhappy.
Violas and Henriette's characters were just brilliant. Henriette was hoodwinking her way through life so she could give herself the best life she could as an independent woman and Viola was such a quiet and lost soul that she didn't actually start living until she met Henriette.
The authors note at the end is also well worth a read, i love the insight you get from the writer about what they have poured into this book and the personal aspect about how the book came about.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It will definitely stay on my shelf to be read again at a later date as it was totally spellbinding and just beautiful to read.
Meet the author
I grew up in the western mountains of Maine, in a small town where the sulphur scent of the paper mill was called ‘the smell of money’. My house was just up the hill from the library, and I spent many hours walking up and down that hill, my nose in a book. I wanted to be a writer, and to have my book on the shelf of the Rumford Public Library.
I wrote my first novel at the age of 11. It was about a girl wizard and was more or less a genderflipped imitation of Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I wrote it by hand in a spiral-bound notebook and included illustrations and maps.
I studied English Literature at Brown University in Rhode Island and Cambridge University in the UK, and then did an M.Phil. degree by research on fairies in Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature. As this had very few practical applications, I became a secondary school English teacher. It was about at this point that I realised that if I wanted to become a novelist, I should probably start writing novels.
At first, I failed. In my previous life I had always been pretty good at what I tried to do, so it was difficult when my novels kept getting rejected. I didn’t know then what I know now: that writing is a process of getting a good idea and then failing to execute it. The wrong words always come before the right ones.
I’ve kept writing and kept writing and eventually I’ve found some of the right words. My novels have been translated into seventeen languages and sold a million copies worldwide. My books TOGETHER and DEAR THING were both Richard and Judy Book Club picks.
Connect with Julie
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