A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller- Feature and Review


From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she's distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

To Frances' surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.



Bitter OrangeBitter Orange by Claire Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a 2018 Tin House Books publication.

This one may be an acquired taste for some, but I felt this one all the way down to my toes.

During 2018, I found myself reaching, more than ever before, for more comforting, light and easy, 'feel good' books to soothe my troubled soul. But I do still have a huge tendency to gravitate towards darker, troubling, moody or heavily laden novels, and especially love it when I pick up on a Gothic tone intertwined in there, as well.

This novel has all these elements, but also asks the reader to work a few things out on their own. So, while this book certainly stimulates the senses, it also gives the brain a little exercise, too.

As Frances lay on her death bed, she is often visited by an old friend, a vicar, who gently, but urgently, coaxes her into relaying back to him what really happened in the year 1969. This is the year Frances was hired to do research at Lyntons, a once grand estate in Hampshire, which now lies in ruins. Frances is staying on the estate with a couple named Peter and Cara, who are also doing research work.

I am obdurate and uncooperative, drifting on a sea of memory between islands of lucidity.

As the three of them settle in together, Frances, who has spent the bulk of her adult life caring for her mother, is suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of being friends with the Cara and Peter. Cara is usually quite willing to regale Frances with stories of how she and Peter met, and the complicated route they took which eventually landed them at the dilapidated estate. She also shares with Frances the tragic events in her life which have left her feeling fragile and unstable. But her tales are often fantastical, and Peter tries to downplay her outlandish claims, leaving Frances unsure of who or what to believe.

But the world is a nicer place when you think everyone is telling the truth. There are no agendas, no hidden motives; no one lies for dramatic effect.

Right away I was drawn in by the beautiful prose, which sucked me right into the pages and held me there, as I listened to Frances’ tale unfold, tingling with both anticipation and dread. However, the story initially unfolds in frustratingly slow pace, and the book's structuring is occasionally jarring. Other than that, this atmospheric and thought- provoking novel held me completely spellbound.

I loved the metaphors and allegory, the history, the mild supernatural suggestions, and that shocking conclusion caps it all off, beautifully. The author did such an amazing job with creating vivid characterizations and that deliciously thick, but tantalizing atmosphere. Frances' clever narrative and detailed storytelling adeptly and successfully lured me willingly along to a wickedly stunning and unforeseeable outcome.





Claire Fuller is the author of Bitter Orange (2018), Swimming Lessons (2017), which was shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. www.clairefuller.co.uk


  1. Great review! I have been wanting to read this!

    1. Thank you!! It's a great read!! Thank you for stopping by The Book Review!!


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