Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.
Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the home of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?
With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s ‘See What I Have Done’, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.
Is a person born bad? Does evil course through the veins like blood or is it something that arises out of circumstance? Nature or nurture? This is a question that filled me throughout this bewitching tale.
Right from the very first page we are plunged head first into the dark, murky depths of a brutal Victorian Britain. Cora is born in a gaol and we follow her journey at two intervals of her life. We know she is protecting a dark secret and yet we can’t be sure what her crime is…not at first. Cora is an intriguing character and although her difficult start in life can warrant some allowances for her tough attitude there are moments when I did wonder what kind of monster she really was. Yet there is also an underlying question mark that hovers over her throughout the story that makes you want to understand where her actions are coming from. Carolyn makes full use of the Victorian attitudes to science and mental health and the story is layered with sinister goings on, creating a misty moodiness that brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the timeframe of the story. I do love a good Victorian gothic and there is a darkness to this tale that drew me in and I could not stop reading, no matter what horror lay before me. This is strong debut from Carolyn and I’m excited to see what comes next.
The Conviction of Cora Burns is published on March 21st 2019. The cover alone is absolutely stunning.
Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. It’s such a thrill to discover a new author.
About the author
Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’a College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.
Her debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns (Previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber academy in London. The unpublished novel achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.
Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.