I’m delighted to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for the hauntingly beautiful Spirited by Julie Cohen. Thank you as always to Anne Cater for the invitation and to Orion Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this gorgeous book.
About the book:
A beautifully haunting and atmospheric historical novel about three brave
women with unspeakable truths – perfect for fans of The Binding, Once Upon A
River and The Familiars.
Three women carry unspeakable truths in their heart. At what cost will they find their freedom?
In Victorian England, Viola is an amateur photographer struggling with the grief of her father’s death and the sterile atmosphere of her marriage to her childhood friend, Jonah. When she discovers a talent for capturing ghostly images on camera, Viola comes to the attention of a spirit medium, and a powerful attraction between the two women is sparked…
As each woman puts herself at risk, secrets are brought to light that will change
their lives forever.
Driven by passionate, courageous female characters Cohen explores themes of sexuality, gender and prejudice, firmly establishing her as one of our best storytellers.
About the author:
Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book.
She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for the Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold
over a million copies; DEAR THING and TOGETHER were Richard and Judy Book Club picks. Her most recent novel is the critically acclaimed LOUIS & LOUISE.
Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin.
First of all, I must say a few words about how stunning the cover of Spirited is! I was lucky enough to take part in the cover reveal for it earlier this year and, even before knowing what the book was about, from the cover alone I knew this was a book I needed to read. And how right I was!
Julie Cohen has written a hauntingly beautiful story that’s a bit of a departure from her usual contemporary work. It’s set in Victorian England and tells the story of Viola, Henriette and a third, as yet unknown, woman who each carry an unspeakable truth in their heart.
Viola is an amateur photographer, struggling with the grief of her father’s death. The story begins with her impending marriage to her childhood friend, Jonah, the man her father had always hoped she would marry. But Jonah is hiding a secret from his young bride that is preventing him from opening his heart to her, leaving her feeling confused and isolated as they begin their new life together.
When Viola discovers she can capture ghostly images on camera, she comes to the attention of beautiful and enigmatic spirit medium, Henriette, and an instant friendship is formed. But as Jonah becomes more and more distant, lost in the memories of his past life in Delhi, the friendship between the two women turns into something even more powerful…
Oh my word, how can I possibly do this gorgeously written and beautifully nuanced book justice? Julie Cohen has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can put her hand to anything and blow you away with the power of her writing. She breathes colour into her characters, bringing them to life on the page and turning them into real people who you can’t help but ache for as their stories are laid bare before you.
I don’t want to go into too much detail for fear of spoiling anything (as this is a book you really need to experience for yourself), but suffice to say the author’s exploration of sexual awakening and gender expectations of the time is outstanding and so tenderly written. Spirited is a book with courageous women at its heart, telling a story that will make you believe anything is possible, even when all hope appears to be lost. It is a truly remarkable tale that I know will stay with me for some time to come.
Another aspect of the book that I found captivating was the amount of detail that went into the description of how a photograph was taken and developed in Victorian times. I’ve always had a keen interest in old photographs, so this was something I found particularly interesting. That we are able to capture the essence of a living, breathing person in a photograph, something that can still be seen long after the person is no longer alive, has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. So the thought that a spirit could be captured in a photograph, like Viola somehow manages to do in the story, isn’t beyond the realms of possibility to me.
Julie Cohen has written a hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric tale that really does make you think. With a stunningly powerful and nuanced plot that captivated me from beginning to end, Spirited is a book that I would not hesitate to recommend. Easily one of my favourite reads of 2020 so far.
Spirited by Julie Cohen is available to purchase now: Amazon UK
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