Published: October 2018 By Tin House
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
First of all, many thanks to the fantastic people over at Tin House for sending this gorgeous copy my way for review! All opinions are my own… but let me tell you, I loved this book. Luckily, just before starting it I happened to come across a brand new set of little sticky tabs. And I used them a lot for this book. I’ve got pages marked all over the place. The prose is smart and gorgeous and and I loved it.
If you don’t know, Bitter Orange, written by Claire Fuller, is the story of a woman named Frances who spent the summer of 1969 researching the architecture of an old English country mansion as part of a job. She stays in the attic of the mansion, and staying just below her are Peter and Cara, a couple she soon befriends. But everything isn’t as it seems, and as Frances is drawn further into Peter and Cara’s life, and as she spies on them through the hole in the floorboards from her attic bedroom, things become more and more complicated. The story is told from the perspective of Frances as an old and dying woman, looking back on that summer in her memories. I thought these moments of her in the present added an interest layer of context and weight to the story, and I was glad Fuller chose this way of telling.
This book is a slow burn. It heats up slowly and steadily for most of the novel, building with suspense and intrigue and intensity. I knew something was coming, but even with marking every line I thought was foreshadowing with a little blue post-it, I couldn’t have predicted the way this one ended. (And not to spoil anything, but OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING.)
Fuller is a masterful writer. Her prose is absolutely stunning, and I found myself reading passages over again, just because I wasn’t ready to move on. She taps into her characters emotions so well, even those more difficult emotions. She also captures a gothic, eerie, almost spooky atmosphere that hangs over this entire novel just perfectly. Even when nothing is outright frightening or even suspenseful, there is just an air about it that Fuller has managed to let hang over the entirety of the novel.
I’ve heard some readers struggle to get invested into the story, as it is rather slow beginning. For me, I was so completely caught up in the enchanting prose that I didn’t mind the slower pace of the plot. So you might keep that in my when approaching this book. If you’re looking for a thriller that will hook you with twists and turns from the beginning, this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for a deeply literary, superbly written masterpiece that will still manage to shock you, I definitely recommend Bitter Orange!
This was my first novel by Claire Fuller and I can wholeheartedly say that it will not be my last!