This novel is a well-written page turner that makes up for a somewhat dismal plot line with a deep-dive character study and nice historical touches.
Iseult Wince is a self-harming, introverted and angry young woman in her late 20s, nearly a spinster in the Victorian era in which the novel is set. Her father, a widower (Iseult’s mother died in childbirth), is a successful manufacturer whose disdain for his daughter impels an almost perverse delight in presenting her a dreary string of unsuitable prospective husbands. Jacob, likely her last opportunity, is charming, handsome, of good family background, and, due to long-term medical therapy for a congenital skin condition, colored entirely silver.
But something much darker disturbs Iseult besides the scars of infant injuries, lifelong emotional abandonment, and the quiet social desperation of a young woman’s life in the 19th century. Her mother seems to speak from within her. And as the wedding approaches, her mother’s punishing demands are growing louder and more difficult to ignore.
Mrs. Pennington, Iseult’s long-suffering nanny, is, until Jacob’s appearance, her only solace. The novel is quite sparse of other major characters and reads more like a well-crafted stage play, with the voice of Iseult’s mother perhaps emerging from the shadows like Macbeth’s Banquo. There are a number of interesting reveals, but little character arc. Lovers of Gothic horror will like this novel, and it is definitely worth the read.