The Book Collector By Alice Thompson – A Review

Publisher: Salt

Look at that beauty!

As some of you will no doubt know, I recently took a trip to Bath and more importantly had a little visit to the fantastic Mr B’s Book Emporium, which you can read about here .

Whilst there I met the lovely Amy and signed up to a 6 month paperback subscription. We chatted about my tastes, likes and dislikes etc etc and then Amy went away to have a little think about the kinds of books she could treat me to. I opted to have a little teaser email sent to me before the book was posted, which is just the authors name just incase I’ve already read a lot by that author and there’s a chance I’ve already read the selected book. So…….the first teaser email asked if I’d ever read any Alice Thompson. I knew immediately what book they had in mind and I was thrilled! This book has been on my wish list for a while after hearing Jen Campbell talk about it on booktube.

I waited patiently for it to arrive and when it did, it was packaged beautifully!

This book is everything I love. Gothic historical fiction with a dark dark tone. My tastes were nailed in this first selection. Amy got me spot on!

Edwardian England and Violet seemingly lives a charmed life. She has a baby son, Felix whom she adores and a thoroughly devoted husband, Archie, the proprietor of a secondhand bookshop with a huge interest in rare and expensive books.

Archie also had a first wife Rose who unfortunately died in childbirth, who Violet takes an interest in. After the birth of their son Violet struggles with her anxieties around keeping her baby safe and happy. Her anxieties grow further when she discovers a rare book of fairytales in a safe in her husbands study, a book she has seen him treat in her words ‘like a lover’. A very special book that Archie is fiercely protective of.

When she asks Archie about the book he clams up and becomes very defensive, almost angry that she has dared to open the safe containing it. He tells her she mustn’t touch it, which piques her interest further. She also discovers her husband disappearing in the night, and when she follows him to the local asylum she cannot fathom why he would be going there, especially in the dead of night.

The book plays on her mind and together with her confusion and worry surrounding her ability as a mother and her husbands nighttime escapades, Violet starts to suffer from delusions. She imagines insects crawling under the skin of the baby and when Archie discovers her clawing at him, he decides to have her committed to the asylum.

On Violet’s release she discovers that Archie has hired a nanny, Clara, to help out with Felix and from here Violet’s life is destined to never be the same..

In one of my previous posts I have discussed the fact that historical fiction never used to be my bag. I only really discovered it in the last year or two. It has to be dark and gritty to catch my attention and I love it when it involves asylums, the way women were treated back then, hysteria and a good old slug of laudanum!

This book has all of those things in spades. It has an almost dreamlike quality to the writing and feels quite claustrophobic. Imagine being a woman during those times and having little or no say over your own life. Having your husband decide to have you committed and your whole existence changing with just his signature on a piece of paper.

Violet although clearly suffering from some form of mental health issue is still a strong woman. She’s not as deluded as her husband makes her out to be. She’s shrewd and cleverly plays situations to her advantage despite uncovering some awful secrets.

I raced through this book, with my heart pounding. A grim, creepy, chilling story with a nightmare quality that haunts you long after you’ve finished.

This is a perfect book to get your hands on this autumn/winter if you’re after an atmospheric read. (Published by Salt aswell, so you know you’re in for a treat!).

A fabulous first choice for my subscription and I’m now so excited for the next delivery!

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

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