Author: Ami McKay
Published by: Vintage Books Canada on Jul. 4, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: Penguin Random House Canada, NetGalley
Book Rating: 8/10
The beloved, bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure is back with her most beguiling novel yet, luring us deep inside the lives of a trio of remarkable young women navigating the glitz and grotesqueries of Gilded-Age New York by any means possible, including witchcraft…
The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.
All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?
Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.
As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?
Dark, fascinating, and incredibly atmospheric!
This story is set in New York City in the early 1880s, a time when building and bridge development was rampant, immigration was ongoing, and the Statue of Liberty was still only a torch-bearing arm displayed in Madison Square Park. However, it was also a time of religious condemnation, fear of the unknown, and a time when cruel and barbaric behaviour towards women who didn’t conform to what society deemed norm was still acceptable.
The writing is elegant and vividly descriptive. The three main characters, Adelaide, Eleanor, and Beatrice, are strong, bold, and independent. And the plot is a creative, dark, mysterious ride of historical tidbits, mystical occurrences, friendship, murder, witchcraft, and love.
This definitely is an enjoyable read that sweeps you away to another place and reminds you of some of the hardships and struggles of a different time. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read anything else by Ami McKay, I highly recommend “The Virgin Cure” still today one of my all-time favourites.
This novel is due to be published on October 25, 2016.
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Thank you to NetGalley, especially Penguin Random House Canada, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.