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The House of Velvet and Glass

Narrated by: Heather Corrigan
Series: Lost Book of Salem, Book 2
Length: 16 hrs and 26 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (176 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times best seller 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, Sibyl 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 Derby, 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 crying 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 that will leave readers breathless.

©2012 Katherine Howe (P)2012 Hyperion (packaging elements only)

Critic Reviews

“Richly atmospheric, The House of Velvet and Glass transported me to the turn of the 20th 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)

“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)
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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A leaden story with a twee narrator

The bones of this story seemed so good: An exploration of how love may redeem grief, woven around a plot that include the Titanic disaster, spiritualism, and the social upheavals of the early 20th century. What could go wrong?

Well, for one thing, there isn't a single character who is not annoying in the extreme -- particularly the protagonist, Sybil, who has lost her mother and sister to drowning, and her almost-fiance to marriage. Sybil flutters and fidgets, whines and worries, and the author traps us with her in a paralytic mess of trivialities. Her mother and sister, drawn in flashbacks of their Titanic experience, are so shallow and screechy that you can't wait for the waters to close over their heads. And there is no apparent reason for anyone to loooove Benton, the object of Sybil's affections, who spends most of his time grabbing hunks of his thick dark hair and scowling and muttering.

But the annoyances of the characters are dwarfed by the irritation I felt with the narrator. In a voice that sounds like it belongs to a 13-year-old girl who is trying to suppress a bad case of the giggles, she coos and simpers and puts on a verbal frowny face when something bad happens. She growls the voices of the male characters and make the Irish maid sound like a leprechaun while Benton, for some reason, seems to have time-travelled back from Soviet Russia. Granted, she has some painfully stilted dialogue and a fussbudget of a plot to work with, but did she really have to deliver the entire novel as though it were a hellishly long version of Goodnight Moon?

Not that I listened to the entire novel. I tried, God how I tried. I got about a third of the way through and had to stop when I realized that the voice yelling "Shut up, you whiner!" at the speakers was mine. I not only stopped listening, I returned the selection so that I wouldn't have to see it on my devices and get annoyed all over again. I would recommend this book only as a passive-aggresive gesture toward my shallowest frienemy. Save your time and credits for a real story with at least one character you might like, narrated by a grownup.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 04-22-12

the parts don`t add up to a good whole

I am not a Titantic fan, but if you are considering this download because you are, know those sections are a small part of the novel, though that tragedy colours the entire narrative.

I downloaded this mainly because of the blurbs promising an "atmospheric" read/listen - Maybe it's better read; The narrator seems the wrong choice to create period atmosphere.

I???m not sure which novel unleashed the stream of recent historical fiction with storylines exploring the beginnings of psychiatry, but it takes a very skillful novelist to do that well ??? this is a near miss on that count, too.

The author recreates the external world well, but could have learned from Edith Wharton???s tone and characterization style to weave a more convincing story. There are also small continuity errors ??? not due to the interlude flashbacks (which were well-done) but more like editing glitches between drafts. I wouldn???t have noticed these in a better paced narrative. I enjoy a tale told slowly and gently, but that pace didn't suit here. Unless I was really tired when listening, I played long sections on double speed and felt that I missed nothing. There are some very good parts to the novel, but it was an unsatisfying whole, as assembled. This author is better than this -- I look forward to her next book.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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This book crawled

The snail's pace of this work made me skip whole chapters. It was well-written but morose and dull. Good writing doesn't make up for a missing plot. Such a pity because the author has a good handle on description and mood (that is if it were meant to be so confusing and sad). I picked it up because I am fascinated with the only period in time in which things were changing as fast as they are right now, but I was awfully disappointed. I couldn't even figure out what the book was really about--the brother, the love interest who had previously jilted the main character, the salty, crusty old father, the medium? Ms Howe's prose was lovely, but it just couldn't make up for all that was missing. (Or for my inability to listen properly to description after description.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

JUST GIVE THE STORY TIME TO DEVELOP

I will admit, I started listening to this book twice and wasn’t feeling it. I decided to give it one final true chance and I’m so glad I did. You need to give the author a little extra time to set the story. I promise, if you just give it a little time you will thank yourself! It’s a fantastic book!

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  • gtrj
  • Brownsville, TX, USA
  • 04-02-19

It took FOREVER to get exciting

I struggled to finish this. Slow start but good ending. If you like novels that meander, then this is for you.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

It's okay.

I think if you like historical novels, you might like this.

For me this was a bit of a slog. The writing style is fine. The reader was fine. I had a hard time getting interested in the plot; heck, I had a hard time *finding* the plot. Actually, when the reader said, "Epilogue," I was a bit surprised; I felt like the long, long exposition was just wrapping up and now we were finally headed for some conflict development. So, I guess I'm saying I found it dull. But that is a highly personal opinion, and probably not shared by most people who read this. Do not let my need for proverbial car chases and explosions dissuade you from giving this a try.

The book has some good insights into the human experience. It did spark thought, which is very much to the author's credit. I suspect part of my lack of enthusiasm was that I already knew what happened on the date mentioned at the start of the first chapter, so the "surprise" ending fell a bit flat, and the rest of the book repeated that pattern. I think because I am somewhat acquainted with a few important historical dates already, the effect of the suspense in the text was a bit like listening to your nephew tell you a knock knock joke you've known for 30 years; you saw that punchline coming from word one.

It's not a romance. It's not really a paranormal book. It wasn't a mystery. I do not think it rises to the level of great literature; that is to say I don't think teachers with force feed this to teenagers. I think I would put this one on the "Historical Fiction" shelf. If that's your bag, give it a go.

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Interesting story

I’d listen to it again. It’s an interesting story line, I especially liked the way the author gave us a glimpse into mysticism and opiate usage in the early 19th century. If you’re looking for a story about Titanic you will be disappointed though. ( I’m a terrible book reviewer, but give this book a chance)

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meh

Narration was awkward with added commas and robot-like speaking at times. was disappointed that the story line didn't really tire in with the first book in the series

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    5 out of 5 stars
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great story

great story and very engaging. The only disappointing part is that even though this is part of a series, it had nothing to do with her first novel. But I did love this book.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Interesting

Any additional comments?

This was my first audible, and I enjoyed it very much. It is fiction, but was well researched for historical accuracy.