BONE HOUSE by Betsy Tobin
Review (Hodder Headline)- June 2001
ISBN 0747264910 - Hardcover / eBook too
Historical - 1603 / British
Reviewed by Rachel A
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This is a book about bodies.
Not just dead ones that need sleuths to find out whodunit but all sorts of bodies.
Voluptuous fat ones for the
Rubensesque ideal of 17th century beauty and a symbol of plenty, skinny ones that are the opposite, ageing ones that seem to decay while still alive and deformed ones. Each one is the "bone house" of a person and each one sealed their fate in a time when, to an even greater extent that today, what you looked like was who you were.
Dora the vast, fecund, friendly prostitute lies dead in an icy ravine. What secrets did she carry to the grave and who sent her there? It is only the narrator, a skinny, solitary servant whose own midwife mother is a distant, chilly opposite of Dora who misses her friend enough to care and try to find out the truth. Her employers are an ageing lady and her hunchbacked, reclusive son who might be suspects, and there is Dora's strange fey son Long Boy who is a simpleminded giant. The plot twists and turns but this isn't just another historical whodunit and even if you are not a fan of literary fiction there is plenty to enjoy in this robust, earthy evocation of Tudor country life and our ancestors' perceptions of beauty, ugliness and the eye of the beholder. Compelling and tautly written - I look forward to more from Betsy Tobin.
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