Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"The House of Velvet and Glass" by Katherine Howe

Here's a book that looked as if it ought to have reached critical mass but sadly never did. Several things on the back cover grabbed my attention: the way the Titanic is woven into the story without being its main focus (that ship captured my imagination from the first time I heard about it, long before Jack and Rose); the mention of a medium's scrying glass (how would this sort of thing be treated outside of Harry Potter?); and the reference to "a final shocking twist that will leave readers breathless."

Well, there was nothing wrong with this book. I don't have complaints about the writing, or the characters, or the plot. It wasn't boring, and I didn't have to force myself to read it (although I was never especially eager to read it, either). All the same, it was disappointing.

This is the story of grieving Sibyl Allston of Boston. I'm not sure if her age is ever mentioned but I would guess she was in her early 20s when her mother and younger sister were lost on the Titanic. Her father is remote and seems emotionless; her younger brother has made a mess of his life, as is evident when Harvard kicks him out just before graduation. Sibyl feels guilty (she'd been jealous about her sister's trip; now she can't help but feel relieved that she didn't get to go) and deals with this by trying to contact her dearly departed with the help of a medium.

I enjoyed reading the scenes that took place on the Titanic (although I couldn't help but picture the movie instead of being guided through my own imagination) and the treatment of the occult satisfied my curiosity. But I'm oddly left wondering what the "shocking twist" was supposed to be. I can think of a few small surprises at the end, but not one major one. And none of them affected my breathing in the least.

I feel like there are people out there who must have loved this book, and I wish I were one of them. Instead, because it was lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I will spit it out of my mouth.