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The House of Velvet and Glass

A Novel

by Katherine Howe

The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe X
The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe
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  • Published Apr 2012
    432 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Page 3 of 4
There are currently 22 member reviews
for The House of Velvet and Glass
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  • Marlene H. (Duluth, GA)
    There's a certain magic in this tale after the leisurely start
    The story gets off to a slow start, fitting to the leisurely pace of life just before WWI in upper-crust Boston.
    But once it gets going, it really gets going!
    The three threads, 1915 present, the last night of the Titanic and Lan's shipping days, at first seem disparate, but by the end, they come together, and the reader realizes they were all necessary for the story to be complete.
    And heartbreaking.
  • Karen (Arizona)
    History and Imagination
    The House of Velvet and Glass - which alternates between late 19th century China and 20th century Boston in the years during and just after the Titanic disaster - is detailed as a Henry James novel. Readers who appreciate a leisurely pace will enjoy various aspects of the period, from art nouveau furnishings to social mores of the elite, though some may find that the main conflict takes a long while to surface. Characters range from raffish to cultured, and the most complex among them include the main protagonist, Sybil. Recommended for the unusual take on grief and its effect on family relationships, and for the deeper aspects, which include some of the views of the time that are now regarded as unpleasant (such as Orientalism/exoticizing) or curious (such as séances.)
  • Marcia M. (Woburn, MA)
    The House of Velvet and Glass
    In The House of Velvet and Glass author Katherine Howe takes readers back to the early 1900s of Boston and, as further background, to the opium dens of China in the late 1800s. Readers travel through the eyes, thoughts, and actions of Sibyl Allston as she learns truths about her family and deals with the ever-changing reality of a new century--all in the tragic shadow of the sinking of the Titanic.

    This reading experience, for me, started slowly. It took a good 100 pages to become invested in these characters and their stories. There were times that I wanted the story to just move along; other times, I loved the long, descriptive paragraphs that put me right into the front parlor of a Beacon Hill mansion.

    All in all, I rate this a solidly positive reading experience, and I thank the First Impressions program at BookBrowse for making the ARC of The House of Velvet and Glass available to me.
  • Michelle H. (Van Buren, AR)
    Lots going on in The House of Velvet and Glass
    Once again, Katherine Howe has cleverly mixed historical fiction with an element of the supernatural. Those who enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane will love this one as well. In The House of Velvet and Glass, Howe incorporates many of the elements from her first novel (a strong female character, an interesting family, and an appealing love interest for the heroine, a New England setting), without simply imitating Deliverance Dane. Those with an interest in the sinking of Titanic will not want to miss this book. The tragedy is a major event in the novel, but instead of concentrating on events on the ship, the book concentrates on the families who cope with the loss of loved ones aboard the ship. Sybil, the protagonist, copes with the loss of her mother and sister, a potential opium addiction, a petulant younger brother and his actress girlfriend, a difficult father and a former suitor, all as she discovers her possible talent as a spiritual medium. Definitely a female read, but with a little something for all us girls!
  • Carole A. (Denver, CO)
    So Sad
    So Sad because I really wanted to love this book as much as the "Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" and I couldn't. It was slow getting into; however, because of my love of the previous book I slugged thru. Unfortunately I kept waiting for the AH-HA for a big bang or for my love of the book to set in. While the various stories were interesting and well written and were linked I felt the diversion left them all a little lacking. I am wondering if there had been three short stories if I would have viewed the collection differently. All that being said I think it is worth taking to the lake or the beach this summer as it will prove a diversion and certainly better than some of the other books I read on my recent stay at the beach. Howe is an author to keep following - she is not, I am sure, going to be a one book author. I look forward to her next endeavor.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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