|Trade paperback, 248 pages|
Published 2009 (originally 2000)
Acquired October 2013
Read October 2014
Long and immaculate descriptions of nothing happening, people with weirdly muted reactions to things happening around them. It just meanders into tedium, into details of weird people doing weird things, seemingly with no point and no end. I found it difficult to care because no one in the book seemed to care about anything either.
Then, on page 220 or so (out of 248), the fire happens, and the book becomes utterly captivating: Helen Humphreys' style suddenly has a point other than beauty for its own sake, and the imagery is gorgeous. But 28 pages from the end is a little too late to hook me.
Also: isn't it a little weird that the book's whole premise is that it's based on real photographs of a real Victorian housemaid, images so strange that Helen Humphreys felt compelled to write a novel about them, yet the cover uses a contemporary stock photo?