Quite a lot of fun and jinks today (Saturday – this is going to be posted late) as the Other Half and I went up to London so I could sign some more stock at Goldsboro Books where the lovely David so kindly hosted Testament’s launch party last week. We also went on a hunt for Testament in local Waterstones and, I’m pleased to say found a stack of five (five!!) in the New Books section of the Piccadilly branch. I did take a picture of it on my phone but I’m having trouble downloading it on to my laptop so you’ll just have to imagine it sitting there, face out, looking at the world in a ‘buy me’ kind of way.
The dear friend who is always trying to get me to read more literary books and her daughter got (by their own admission) a bit over-excited at the sight of multiple copies of Testament in one of the two Canterbury Waterstones and texted me. Conversation with ‘the lovely book man’ revealed that ten had been bought and now only four were left. More texting ensued to relay this information. I would never have dared ask but I’m glad she did....
One of the nice things about going to London is reading on the train and today was no exception as I was looking forward to reading the last third of Faye L. Booth’s Cover the Mirrors in one go, having had to read the first two thirds piecemeal over the last couple of days.
When you read a book set in the Victorian period involving a young woman with ideas above her station, a young man with an eye for the ladies and some powerful – if slightly less than honest – and independent women, you think you know what you’re going to get. The women will be brought low and taught their place, the men will go all dominant and Victorian and break out in thinking only women of loose virtue enjoy sex and the repressive mores of the time will prevail and crush.
And then you read Cover the Mirrors and you realise that all these expectations, nicely set up by Faye at the beginning, are turned on their head and you get precisely nothing that you were led, by previous experience, to expect.
The line on the back cover of the book - ‘Molly was fifteen when she began working with the dead’ - is brilliant and really sucks you in. It’s soon clear that the dead she works with are ‘on the other side’ and she is acting as their spiritual medium. And when I say ‘acting’ I use the word advisedly.
But, although the book has some lovely scenes in the séance room in which an elegant sufficiency of detail deftly moves the action forward, Cover the Mirrors is not primarily about being a medium but about being a woman who wishes to retain her independence and, at the same time, satisfy her sexual desires, in Victorian Preston.
And very nicely done it is too.
It’s hard to say much more without giving too much information away and spoiling the reader’s own journey of discovery through Molly’s seventeenth year but suffice it to say that the young medium’s world is beautifully realised from the courtship-language of flowers to conditions in a cotton mill; from Victorian mourning practices to Preston street life.
I’m looking forward to meeting Faye in Cambridge on Friday so that I can pick her brains about what she’s working on now. From what she says about her writing on her website, I’m assuming it will be Victorian or Edwardian but, whatver it is, on the evidence of Cover the Mirrors it will only set up expectations in order to dump them in the nearest Victorian-style bin.