Title: The Silk House
Author: Kayte Nunn
Published: June 30th 2020
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The Top-Ten bestselling story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret…
Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past.
In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.
In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. A length of fabric she weaves with a pattern of deadly flowers will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.
‘It was as though the layers of the house’s history were pressed together like a book, with some of the print – past events – leaching through the pages. It occurred to her that the top one, on which the new history was being written was now partly her story – hers and the girls.’
A beautifully embroidered tale of haunting secrets, persecution, ambition and mystery swirls around The Silk House by Kayte Nunn. The international bestselling author of The Botanist’s Daughter presents her readers with a compulsive three perspective based narrative that completely enthralls from start to finish.
The Silk House incorporates the compelling stories of three different female figures across the space of over two centuries. In the present day we meet Thea, a teacher from Australia who takes up a new position of employment at an exclusive British boarding school. Taking on the care and education of the first intake of female students in the school’s history, Thea is excited but also apprehensive about her new post. Thea is placed in the silk house, a very old building with dark history. It soon becomes clear that there are secrets from the past to unlock as Thea makes some startling discoveries about her new workplace. Intertwined with Thea’s story is an eventful passage back to the past which follows Rowan Caswell, a village woman who finds employment at a silk merchant’s home. Rowan finds her life threatened when she dares to draw on her knowledge of herbal medicines, where many surround her are suspicious of these healing measures. Finally, Mary–Louise Stephenson draws in the third and final perspective of The Silk House. Mary-Louise is an ambitious young woman of her time, with aspirations to venture in the male dominated world of silk weaving. It is a vocation that will bring Mary-Louise hope and pain, as her life become inextricably linked to the renowned silk house. Remarkable secrets unfurl as The Silk House reveals its hidden mysteries.
Gothic mysteries are by far my most favourite style of novel. I have been savouring this one to read and indulge in over the recent school holiday break. The Silk House didn’t let me down, Kayte Nunn has delivered yet another winning five star read, that I will be recommending to anyone who will listen!
Kayte Nunn is quite the storyteller and she goes that one step further with The Silk House. Graduating from her last two historical fiction novels, in The Silk House we have a triple perspective narrative. Ambitious in scope and detail, Kayte Nunn should be extremely proud of what she has achieved with this novel. I was completely mesmerised by the stories of Thea, Rowan and Mary-Louise. What I admired about these three female figures was their strength, endurance, determination and fighting spirit. Each lead protagonist had their own personal challenges to manage within the context of their individual histories, but each managed to rise above their circumstances to achieve great heights. I really admired this feminist history and the overview Nunn provided in the areas of silk weaving, witchcraft, along with the life traditional healers. We definitely need more books on the market of this nature.
The Silk House itself has such page presence, I found it hard pressed to turn away from this novel as soon as the silk house was mentioned. I was utterly captivated by the mystery, secrets and old charm of this murky abode. Nunn’s characterisation of the silk house and her cast is simply magnificent, I could not fault it in any way. I was equally invested in the affairs of Thea in the present day, along with the fascinating figure of Rowan and the admirable Mary-Louise. The support cast is equally well presented, adding an extra edge of speculation to this enthralling tale. The British locations based both in the countryside and market villages was vividly presented on the pages of The Silk House. It gave the reader an excellent insight into times past, but also the present day. The boarding house stage was a fabulous backdrop to this mysterious novel, as it provided plenty of mystifying puzzles for the audience to work through. This was definitely the driving force of the novel, imploring the reader to turn page after page in anticipation for what would ultimately be revealed. The close was just perfect in my eyes, restoring the unsettled events that mark both the past and present storylines.
An intricately knitted tale of wreathed worlds, history, witchcraft, healing, locked secrets, speculation and eerie happenings, The Silk House is Kayte Nunn’s beguiling new masterpiece. The Silk House has elevated this very talented author to new heights and I’m eagerly anticipating her next release.
The Silk House by Kayte Nunn is published by Hachette Australia on June 30th 2020. $32.99.
To learn more about the author of The Silk House, Kayte Nunn, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Silk House is book #110 the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge