Strands of Bronze and Gold

Written by Jane Nickerson
Review by Lauren Miller

Tucked away in a backwater Mississippi town is Wyndriven Abbey, home of the mysterious, intoxicating Bernard de Cressac. Sophia Petheram enters her godfather’s world as an orphan and is captivated by his gusto for life. However, Sophia soon discovers an eerie commonality between de Cressac’s former wives and herself: they all have hair in strands of bronze and gold. This awakening brings the realization of how isolated Sophia’s world has become, and how little she really knows about her host.

From debut novelist Jane Nickerson comes this re-imagining of Bluebeard and his many wives. Several changes from the Charles Perrault version refashion the cautionary tale into a Gothic mystery with supernatural elements, drawing parallels between Sophia’s gilded cage and the trials of slave life. Sophia becomes a proactive heroine determined to exhume the secrets of the Abbey by reaching out to its inhabitants and neighbors.

The champion of the story is its setting. Nickerson, a former Mississippian, transports us to the antebellum South where the sweltering heat and mossy oaks are as magical as an enchanted wood. It is a breathtaking world where the refined European interiors of the Abbey and exquisite fashions cultivate a seductive contrast to Sophia’s humble origins. Fans of Jane Eyre are sure to delight in the forgotten corridors and crumbling follies of the Abbey, which lend a decidedly Gothic sensibility and heighten the plot’s climatic ending.