A period piece with an evocative atmosphere rich in sorrow
After the death of her mother and younger sister on the Titanic, Sybil turns to her mother's medium for solace. The medium gives her a scrying ball, through which Sybil glimpses ever more detailed visions of an endangered ship. Are they the imaginings of a susceptible mind, dreams induced by a painkiller, or something supernatural? The author weaves together several timelines and locales, bringing the reader to opium dens, seance parlors, wealthy Boston society houses, the Cambridge campus, and of course, places promising death. The pace may be a bit slow for readers interested in action, but others will be rewarded with a rich sense of visiting the past along with insight into how visions may be viewed as a curse.
Rated of 5
by Jeff S. (Murfreesboro, TN)
Old Boston, Opium, Psychics and the Titanic
Over the course of the 1st 150 pages or so of this novel I was not sure that I was going to like it. The book seemed slow and I couldn't really figure out what was the point. The characters themselves were interesting from the beginning and the descriptions of the settings were also intriguing, yet I had no idea what the main plot of the book would be. It turns out I am very glad that i stuck with it. The book turned out to be a fascinating look at old Boston, the world of opium dens, Psychics and the beginning of one the most fascinating times in American history. I would highly recommend this book, but would also be sure to point out that you need to stick with it and give it time to build. It would definitely be a good book for any book club as there are plenty of discussion points throughout the entire book. I don't know that it was as good as her first book, but it was definitely a great trip in time.
Rated of 5
by Emily G. (Clear Lake, MN)
Howe does a good job of creating the atmosphere of 1915 and exploring issues that remain relevant today--wealth vs poverty, war, tragedy, pain, family. The characters are complex and interesting and the spiritualism aspect is explored and challenged in many ways. However, if you're looking for a Titanic book, this isn't it. The ship's story plays a role but mostly as a point from which to develop the rest of the story. I suggest this novel for readers who want to be swept into another time and think it would be a good selection for book clubs--it's a good read!
Rated of 5
by Alan K. (Westport, MA)
House of Velvet and Glass
A totally enjoyable read with a mixture of fact and fiction, jumping forth and back in time. There is good character development with excellent description of life of the upper classes of pre-war Bostonians. The book covers the issues of addiction, mysticism and loss. Definitely recommend.
Rated of 5
by Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)
3 plots...1 novel
1868 Shanghai ... April 12, 1912 Titanic ... 1915-17 Boston ... Each plot had the potential to be a engaging novel. However, taken as a whole, this novel left me unsatisfied.
Rated of 5
by Joanne V. (Towanda, PA)
I really wanted to love this book, but....
It starts very slowly and there are three plots with good descriptions in each. The three stories come come together eventually, but I just wasn't satisfied with the book as a whole. It simply wasn't a real page turner and it took a long time (for me) to finish. The didn't think the characters were that well developed or maybe I just didn't care about them in the end. When I finished the book, I wondered what I was missing, particularly since I read reviews of her other books. I don't think my book group would be very enthusiastic about it either, but maybe I am missing something.
Rated of 5
by Ray P. (Selden, NY)
Decent premise but fails to deliver in the end.
Her debut novel, "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dance" was one of the original books of the past few years and I eagerly sought out her second offering, "The House Of Velvet and Glass".
A period piece based in the years following the sinking of the Titanic and the on-set of WWI, young Sybil Alston is a Boston socialite dealing with the tragic loss of her mother and older sister who were on-board the ill-fated Titanic. She seeks out a local mystic in an effort to connect with her departed loved ones and seems to be be taken by the encounters. However, when she teams up with some local 'debunkers' that reveal the mystic to be a charlatan, Sybil is still left with unanswered questions?
If the mystic was a phony why was she able to see the Titanic in her crystal ball. To further complicate things, Sybil begins to show her own psychic abilities and predicts the death of one of her colleagues on board the Lusitania. Howe explores the topics of faith and mysticism with an unwavering eye. Unfortunately, the novel does not really answer any big questions and the last quarter of the story loses a lot of steam.
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