28 May 2019

Today's Read: The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

all about The Poison Thread by Laura PurcellCan you determine someone's character just through touch? Can you kill someone just through the act of sewing an item of clothing? Dorothea Truelove and Ruth Butterham each believe the answer to at least one of these questions is yes.

Here's how the novel begins:

My sainted mother taught me the seven acts of corporeal mercy: to feed the hungry; refresh the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the traveller; comfort the sick; visit those imprisoned; and bury the dead. Most of these we undertook together, while she lived. Then Papa and I buried her, so that was another one checked off the list.

A single merciful act eluded me: visiting those imprisoned. A lady in my position has ample opportunity to feed and clothe, but who can she call upon in gaol? Which of her general acquaintances is ever incarcerated?
The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell (Penguin Books, June 18, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Victorian England
  • Circumstances: Dorothea is a good Christian young woman who does acts of charity and has an interest in science. Her particular passion is for phrenology, a method of determining a person's true character and deepest secrets by measuring and touching his or her skull. Despite her upbringing, Dorothea wants to marry a man beneath her station; her father, however, has other plans for her. Ruth, a teenage seamstress, is no stranger to hard living, unkindness, and abuse by those who think they are her betters. She is currently in Oakgate Prison for murder, which she claims to have committed by sewing hate-filled thoughts and death into the victims' clothing. When Dorothea gets the chance to practice phrenology on Ruth, the two very different women meet. Each tells her story in alternating chapters, but can either be believed? Which one has a better hold on reality? Which one needs to be saved?
  • Genre & themes: Gothic thriller with themes of class differences and women's suppression
  • Why I want to read it: I'm not sure I've read a novel with two unreliable narrators, and that alone intrigues me. I wonder if these women will end up helping or harming each other. Reviews say that Purcell gets the period details just right. I find it hard to resist a good Gothic story.
  • Extra things to know: The idea of a killing through sewing comes from two true crimes: a 1758 murder in a milliner's shop and a 1861 poisoning of a craftswoman. Phrenology was once considered a scientific field of study. The novel was originally published in the UK under the title The Corset.
  • Acknowledgments: Thanks to Penguin Books for a finished copy of The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell.


Girl Who Reads 5/28/19, 7:05 AM  

It sounds really interesting though Gothic novels are not a genre I typically read. Check out the book I'm featuring this week at Girl Who Reads

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 5/28/19, 7:13 AM  

I love the writing; great intro too.

Anonymous,  5/28/19, 7:22 AM  

Very creepy and interestingly!

Mae Travels 5/28/19, 8:00 AM  

For even more unreliable narrators, try "An Instance of the Fingerpost" by Iain Pears. it's told by FOUR unreliable narrators -- and in fact, it's based on historical events. A great book!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

bermudaonion 5/28/19, 8:30 AM  

I bet my book club would love this book!

Catherine @ Book Club Librarian 5/28/19, 2:56 PM  

I like the sound of this plot, and the narrator drew me right in. I'd like to know more about her, so I'd keep reading.

Katherine P 5/28/19, 3:09 PM  

I read a previous book from Purcell and enjoyed it even though I didn't love the plot itself. This one sounds much more my kind of book!

Yvonne 5/28/19, 9:34 PM  

I never read this author but it does sound good.

Greg 5/28/19, 11:10 PM  

Wow this sounds interesting. I'm already curious to know where Dorothea's story goes, and this sounds both a little dark and very original. I hope it's good!

Nise' 5/30/19, 9:14 PM  

It is always fun to read books with unreliable narrators.

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