A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd is a British author who studied English in Oxford and worked as a freelance copywriter for more than a decade.

A Treacherous Likeness is the third book in Image of book A Treacherous Likenessthe Charles Maddox series. I have not read the first (Murder at Mansfield Park) but read the second (Tom-All-Alone’s) over six years ago. I enjoyed it so much that I borrowed A Treacherous Likeness from a friend shortly after, unfortunately I have only just got round to reading it (thankfully my friend is patient).

(Note: Outside of the UK, Tom-All-Alone’s is called A Solitary House, and A Treacherous Likeness is called A Fatal Likeness)

A Treacherous Likeness follows Charles Maddox, an investigator in the mid-19th century, as he works to unravel the mysteries surround the life of poet Percy Shelley and his wife, author Mary Shelley.

Throughout the book I found myself changing my opinions of the main characters continuously, in fact I’m still not 100% sure what I think of them. There is a lot of history, London in the 19th century, the class system etc. There is also a lot of interesting information about the Shelleys. This is of course combined with fictitious characters and events. The author’s note at the end is very helpful in separating fact from fiction and speculation.

I found this book to be an enjoyable read. I like Shepherd’s way of writing, she occasionally talks to you separate from the story, discussing how a behaviour would result in a medical diagnosis nowadays etc. Although it takes you out of the period the story is based in, it seems to somehow bring you closer to the characters.

This book has raised a lot of questions for me about the Shelleys and even about Byron. I’m leaving it with lots of curiosity and will be doing some research about them all to sate it.

I really enjoyed reading this and am pleased to see that there has been a fourth book released in the series, although it does seem to be only on the Kindle that I can find it. Regardless, I hope it’s not another six years before I read it. I would also like to go back and read the first in the series.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister is the first book by British author Beth Underdown.

Image of bookSet in the 17th century in Essex and across parts of Suffolk, the book follows Alice as she returns home to her brother in the midst of the Civil War in England. Upon returning home she finds herself pulled into a world of witch-hunting.

Interestingly this book is a fictionalised account of a real person from history, Matthew Hopkins – one of the witch-hunters who was responsible for the death of a significant number of people.

Some of the women detailed in the book are real women who were tried or testified and some chapters are opened with documents that have been compiled from actual historical sources.

I found this book to be really well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The character of Alice, and the other main characters, were so well written. I could completely relate to Alice and understand her struggle with what was happening.

Underdown paints a vivid picture of what is taking place and it’s so interesting to see reasons why women could be accused of being a witch. I find myself wondering if people truly believed that they were witches, or just didn’t like their actions and choices and so used it as a reason to punish them.

The story moved at a good pace, I didn’t find myself getting bored or wishing there wasn’t so much to read. The book finished well for me, mostly. There was one piece, in fact the final sentence, which I cannot work out whether or not I like. Part of me enjoyed it, and the other part thought it was a bit too much. If you’ve read the book please let me know what you thought of that sentence.

I hope that there are more books to come from Underdown, if there are I would most definitely be interested in reading them.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut book by Gail Honeyman, a Scottish author.  It was written after Honeyman read a newspaper article about loneliness and it quoted a woman who said that she rarely spoke to anyone between leaving work on the Friday and returning on a Monday morning.

Book of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineI have to admit that I found this book difficult to begin with.  Not because it isn’t well written, it is.  But because the main character, Eleanor Oliphant, is difficult to connect to.  This is of course the point of the character, but it still meant that I struggled to sympathise with her or like her very much at the beginning.  Gradually you get to know her though, especially through her relationship with others, and you see that she is just a confused, lost person who is trying to fit in as best she can.  It was a little over half way through the book, when we reach the second section, that I finally began to connect and fully empathise with the character.  Watching her grapple with feelings and emotions and facing her past made her more human and relatable.  I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of this book, in fact I read it in one sitting, not getting the early night I had planned but I was just completely absorbed by it and had to read what happened next and then finish it.

The overarching theme of this book is loneliness.  It takes quite an extreme approach to it, but it was effective nonetheless.  It also reminded us that we don’t know what people have experienced in their past or what they are currently going through and we shouldn’t judge a person based on our own preconceptions – something that was addressed well with an encounter on a bus. 

It did feel as though the second half of the book was too quick, the speed at which Eleanor is meant to deal with her past issues when she finally faces them was extremely fast.  Having said that Honeyman was clear that Eleanor still had more work to do, and although the ending was a bit of a surprise (more so how easily Eleanor dealt with a revelation) you could tell that it wasn’t the end of her journey and she still had a long way to go.

I did enjoy this book and am pleased I read it, I can also see why it was a Costa Book Awards winner in 2017.