Monday, January 02, 2017

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

I have not read a historic romance for a long time and, despite the cover image suggesting that House of Silence might be one, it is not straightforwardly of that genre.  Set in 1875 Illinois, a young woman's future is determined by the marriage that she makes, and this is the course that Isabelle Larkin is set upon, with her mother eager to confirm her match with Gregory Gallagher, a charismatic political aspirant.  Isabelle is excited by the prospect of a marriage to Gregory, until she is the unwitting witness to him committing a violent crime.  

Isabelle is revolted by Gregory's actions and appalled that no-one, not even her mother, will believe her when she tells them what happened.  Her mother is determined that Isabelle should honour her promise to marry Gregory, but Isabelle is equally adamant that this will not be her fate, even if it means that she will be committed to a sanatarium to avoid scandal and to persuade her to see the error of her ways.  Shocked and fearful for her life, she encourages this by becoming mute and feigning a breakdown.

Her time in the asylum brings her into contact with Mary Todd Lincoln, widow of the assassinated President, who is suffering problems of her own.  A fragile friendship grows up in the face of their common situation, but Isabelle is still not safe and must reclaim her voice to save herself.

The historical context is fascinating and there is plenty of suspense as we are caught up in Isabelle's quest to save herself.  She is a feisty character caught up in a situation of her time and status and interesting to read of in the context of the present.  An enjoyable book.

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