Available in Ebook, Audio & Hardback (9 July 2020)
Source: Copy received from publisher for review
ABOUT THE BOOK
Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her – and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . .
Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them – but Victorian society is no place for reckless women.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight.
Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom?
Driven by passionate, courageous female characters, SPIRITED is your next unforgettable read!
Perfect for fans of other bestselling historical novels The Binding by Bridget Collins, The Familiars by Stacey Halls, and Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.
I’ve always been a fan of Julie Cohen’s contemporary novels but this is her foray into historical fiction and I do hope there will be more.
Set during Victorian times, the story moves between England and India, with much of it set on the Isle of Portland in Dorset where Viola Goodwin and Jonah Worth make their home upon their marriage.
Viola and Jonah were childhood friends and the story begins with their marriage following the death of Viola’s father, a clergyman. Jonah had only just returned from India, he had been close to Viola’s father, having lost his own parents and it was expected that he and Viola would marry. Their marriage was a sombre affair, with Viola grieving for her father. Jonah is a troubled soul, haunted by his past and they both seem trapped by their own grief.
Viola’s father was a keen photographer and he passed his love of the camera to his daughter. Viola finds her photographic skills in demand after she inadvertently captures spirit images on camera. This brings her into contact with Henriette and will change her life in more ways than she could ever imagine.
Henriette Blackthorne is a celebrated spirit medium; she seems to rely on charitable friends rather a lot and always has an eye on the main chance. She is older than Viola and has seen far more of the world and is no stranger to life’s harshness. In comparison, Viola is an innocent; gentle and kind.
Spirited is a story of love, sexuality, and also prejudice – both with class and gender. It has clearly been extensively researched and is rich with detail. The notion of spirit photography and the practical elements of producing photographs with chemicals and plates I found fascinating but it was also the scenes set in Delhi – the vivid and evocative descriptions, the English Colonial setting, the shocking scenes of the uprising – the Siege of Delhi and the differences in class and religion. I found this part of the story just as engrossing as that part with Viola and I felt immense sadness for what had been lost and for what couldn’t be.
In addition to the narratives of Viola, Henriette and Jonah are the occasional newspaper reports and other documents. These give a factual feel but are also used as a means of moving the story forward.
This is not a fast paced read but I just savoured the storytelling. I was completely drawn in by the characters – the boldness of Henriette, the gentleness of Viola and the loyalty of Jonah. I loved it and have no hesitation in recommending.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation and to the publisher for the gorgeous hardback copy to review. This will have a place on my keeper’s shelf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book. She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for the Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold over a million copies; DEAR THING and TOGETHER were Richard and Judy Book Club picks. Her most recent novel is the critically acclaimed LOUIS & LOUISE. Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin.