The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass

3.6 108
by Katherine Howe

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Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of herSee more details below


Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in an elegant town house in Boston's Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sybil flees for solace to the parlor of a table-turning medium.

But when her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange young woman, Sibyl turns for help to psychology professor Benton Jones, despite the unspoken tensions of their shared past. As Benton and Sibyl work together to solve a harrowing mystery, their long-simmering spark flares to life, and they realize that there may be something even more magical between them than a medium's scrying glass.

From the opium dens of Boston's Chinatown to the opulent salons of high society, from the back alleys of colonial Shanghai to the decks of the Titanic, The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist in a breathtaking novel that will thrill readers.

Bonus features in the eBook: Katherine Howe's essay on scrying; Boston Daily Globe article on the Titanic from April 15, 1912; and a Reading Group Guide and Q&A with the author, Katherine Howe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The sinking of the Titanic ripples through the lives of a socially prominent Boston family in an impressive historical tale from Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane). Three years after the disaster claimed her mother and sister, Sibyl Allston finds solace in the séances of the medium Mrs. Dee while her brother, Harley, is expelled from Harvard and returns home in the company of the less-than-respectable Dovie Whistler, an actress. Re-entering the family’s life is Benton Derby, a young Harvard professor whose aborted courtship of Sibyl years before has left her doomed to the life of a spinster and family caretaker. Moving through time from 1915 back to Sibyl’s father’s past as a young sailor in Shanghai half a century before and to the last hours of the Titanic itself, Howe’s story of the growing attraction between Sibyl and Benton in the shadow of grief and loss merges gracefully into a compelling exploration of spiritualism and free will. An engaging story of love, destiny, and sacrifice in the growing shadow of WWI, with the unexpected touch of fantasy. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME Entertainment. (May)
Library Journal
Following her wildly successful best-selling debut (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane), Howe takes a new direction with her sophomore effort. In 1915 Boston, Sybil Allston still struggles to cope with the loss of her mother and sister on the Titanic three years earlier and reaches out to a spiritualist in hopes of reconnecting with her deceased relatives. When an acquaintance from her past appears, Sybil is driven to embark on a mysterious journey to investigate the depths of her family's secrets. Romance, elements of the supernatural, and an intricate family drama contribute to this atmospheric character-driven story set against a richly detailed turn-of-the-century backdrop. VERDICT Where Howe successfully mingled the occult world of Salem's past with the present day in Deliverance Dane, the new novel may disappoint readers who found the first book spellbinding. Reading more as historical fiction with bits of mysticism thrown in, this release should satisfy undiscriminating historical fiction readers, specifically those interested in the early 20th century. Recommended for fans of Tracy Chevalier and Diana Gabaldon.—Carolann Curry, Mercer Medical Lib., Macon, GA
Kirkus Reviews
Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, 2009) sets her second novel among early-20th-century Bostonians fascinated by the power of both spiritualism and the new science of psychology. Twenty-seven-year-old spinster Sibyl Allston lives a quiet life with her father Lan, a successful businessman who talks little about his youth as a sailor in the Far East. In 1915 both are still mourning the deaths of Sibyl's mother Helen and younger sister Eulah, who drowned on the Titanic three years before. Except for her regular visits to the medium, Mrs. Dee, in hopes of making contact with her mother and sister, Sibyl is a retiring, conventional young woman. Then her younger brother Harlan is thrown out of Harvard, ends up in the hospital after a fight he will not discuss and moves back into the family home along with a young woman named Dovie, whose background remains as murky as her relationship to Harlan. Dovie introduces Sibyl to a potentially dangerous habit in Boston's Chinatown, but at the same time Sibyl's former beau re-enters her life. Benton is now a psychology professor at Harvard who tries to help Sibyl by exposing Mrs. Dee as a fraud. But as the country drifts toward World War I, Sibyl begins to realize she may possess an unexpected gift as a seer, one that she unknowingly inherited from her father along with a taste for opium. Is knowing the future a gift or a curse, or does it depend on the angle through which it is viewed? Ultimately Sibyl learns that even within a world ruled by fate, choices can be made. The slightly sordid melodrama and para-psychological philosophizing lean uncomfortably against a sappy romance.

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Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

Lyndsay Faye
The House of Velvet and Glass is an intricate and intimate family portrait, painted against a backdrop of beautifully rendered tales of colonialist Shanghai, the wreck of the Titanic, and upper-crust Boston dabblers in the spirit world in the uneasy days preceding the Great War. I'd ask Katherine Howe for more than this, but it seems churlish to request that she turn the pages for me. (Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham and Dust and Shadow)
Brunonia Barry
Richly atmospheric, The House of Velvet and Glass transported me to the turn of the twentieth century and a world changing as rapidly and irrevocably as our own. A gifted historian and storyteller, Katherine Howe has created a vividly imagined world that made me want to suspend time, lingering just a bit longer with the characters who live there, before the whole thing vanished in the clouded glass. (Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places)
David Liss
Katherine Howe follows up her amazing debut with The House of Velvet and Glass, a thoughtful journey into the realms of the supernatural that inhabits its source material with effortless ease and charm. A totally absorbing read peopled with characters who will haunt readers' minds. (David Liss, author of The Twelfth Enchantment and A Conspiracy of Paper)

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