Review 1485: Bitter Orange

Best of Ten!
Frances, on her deathbed in some sort of institution, remembers the events of a summer 20 years before, in 1969, when she came to know her only friends. Frances’s mother has recently died when she takes a job at a crumbling mansion called Lyntons where she is to report on any interesting architectural features on the grounds to its new owner. There she meets Peter, who has been similarly employed to evaluate the house and its contents, and Cara, his wife.

Cara and Peter befriend Frances during a heady summer of near camping out in the destroyed house. The three soon begin picnicking and enjoying themselves while Cara tells Frances fascinating stories about their previousĀ  lives.

There is clearly something a little overstrung and off about Cara, but Frances is entranced by the friendship she has never had before and also falling in love with Peter. Even when the two show they are not particularly honest, she is not dissuaded, despite hints from her other friend, Victor, the vicar.

This novel is wildly atmospheric while somehow remaining quiet. There are odd, unexplained touches—a telescope inserted into the floor of Frances’s attic bedroom, so that she can see what happens in the bathroom below, imagined smells, noises, and glimpses of faces in the attic, suggesting a haunting. Slowly, we realize that Frances has her own problems.

This is a haunting novel, evocatively written, about loneliness and longing, about the fathomless qualities of guilt. I was riveted by it.

Related Posts

Rebecca

Days of Awe

The Poison Tree

2 thoughts on “Review 1485: Bitter Orange

  1. Cynthia March 20, 2020 / 4:06 pm

    Does it evoke the 60s era well? Or is the setting so internal that it doesn’t matter? I’m wondering how you found this one, It sounds great, and I’ve never heard of it.

    • whatmeread March 20, 2020 / 5:13 pm

      It was so restricted to the setting on an estate that I didn’t really have to evoke the 60’s. I noticed that other readers I like enjoyed a different book by Claire Fuller (whose name I noticed because it’s the same as my best friend’s maiden name), so I just picked this one up and really loved it. That book was Swimming Lessons, which I have not yet read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.