Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Spirited by Julie Cohen.
A beautifully haunting and atmospheric historical novel about three brave women with unspeakable truths – perfect for fans of The Binding, Once Upon A River and The Familiars.
Three women carry unspeakable truths in their heart.
At what cost will they find their freedom?
In Victorian England, Viola is an amateur photographer struggling with the grief of her father’s death and the sterile atmosphere of her marriage to her childhood friend, Jonah. When she discovers a talent for capturing ghostly images on camera, Viola comes to the attention of a spirit medium, and a powerful attraction between the two women is sparked… As each woman puts herself at risk, secrets are brought to light that will change their lives forever.
Driven by passionate, courageous female characters Cohen explores themes of sexuality, gender and prejudice, firmly establishing her as one of our best storytellers.
Oh but I loved this. Julie Cohen gives us a beautifully written Victorian Gothic novel that is not only incredibly topical but also shines a light on the darker sides of British history. This brilliantly written story of love, grief and prejudice is just my cup of tea.
Viola is consumed by grief after the death of her beloved father. She marries Jonah, her childhood friend but the much anticipated wedding day is a far cry from the joyous occasion she had dreamt of. She leaves behind everything she knows and moves to a new life in Dorset with Jonah. Desperate to find some distraction from her grief and her cold, lonely marriage, Viola turns to her passion of photography to help fill the empty days. She discovers a talent that allows her to capture the spirits of the dead in her photographs. Confusion and disbelief surround her and she tries to make sense of what she is witnessing.
Jonah is struggling with his own grief. He feels he is failing his young bride, the woman he has been promised to for many years. But his heart yearns with love and guilt for another, one that he left behind in India, so far away amongst the death and destruction of a land that the British wished to take for their own.
Henrietta Blackthorne is a celebrated medium. She travels the world sharing her gift with those aching to reconnect with their loved ones… for a small fee of course. Henrietta channels the dead through her spirit guide but she herself has never seen a ghost, that is until she meets Viola and sees something in one of her photographs, something that might just be of great use to her.
Viola and Jonah bury their true feelings and try to settle to life in Dorset. That is until Henrietta arrives and their ordered, quiet, cold life is spectacularly blown apart.
There is so much that I loved about this story. It highlights so many issues of the time, issues that we can still very much relate to now. I think the dark side of imperialism and the conflict of religions is brilliantly touched on, as is the attitude towards women, their silencing and suffocation. It was also a time when scientific discovery was changing the views of life and death in very profound ways. Suddenly questions were raised as to life after death and many people sought solace from mediums to reconnect with lost loved ones. There were, of course, many charlatans at the time who took advantage of the vulnerable and also those who would stop at nothing to showcase them as frauds, at whatever cost to the people involved.
I love the supernatural element of this story. It is quite unique in it’s telling and Julie’s historical research is evident in this area, the photographic elements (fascinating) and of course the events in India at this time. As shaming as it is to see this side of our history, it is very important for these events to be told again and again through the art of storytelling. Julie does it incredibly well, it is a very absorbing read and one that I thoroughly recommend. The author herself admits that she has taken many ‘historical liberties’, after all this is a work of fiction. But there were spirit photographers, there were mediums and yes women were considered the ‘weaker sex’ and forced to hide any strengths or achievements that may have been considered ‘inappropriate’ (pretty much everything except sewing, writing letters, walking, oh and behaving in a feminine manner!). The events in India were also based on real events. Real heartbreaking events.
This is a novel that will stay with me. It will be one that I recommend and gift to friends. My copy however will remain firmly on my bookshelf and I look forward to returning to it again and again. It was a wonderful read and I loved every page of it.
Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the Random Things Blog Tour and to the team at Orion Books for sending me a copy for review. It is definitely one for the bookshelf, the cover is stunning and the novel itself a throughly enjoyable read.
Spirited by Julie Cohen is available now in hardback , ebook and on Audiobook.
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