Claire Fuller’s Bitter Orange tells the story of Frances Jellico, a lonely woman hired to live in and research architecture in the gardens that surround the Lyntons, a mansion in the English countryside. It is there that she meets Cara and a man named Peter, also hired to evaluate the Lyntons. Together, to Frances, they are a raucous and fun couple living in the rooms below her. As the three settle into their lives at the Lyntons, they begin to socialize, first to Frances’s dismay and then to her delight. As the trio begins to spend more and more time together, certain stories that Cara tells begin to unravel, and Frances begins to harbor feelings toward Peter that she cannot share with anyone.
The novel begins with Frances lying on her deathbed, remembering the summer of 1969, and alternates between her memories of the past and her current life, which consists mostly of being fed by nurse assistants and speaking with the Vicar. We learn that Frances once cared for her domineering mother, that her father is largely absent from her life, and that she had lived mostly without friendship until meeting Peter and Cara. Fuller offers readers an unapologetic glance into the mind of a woman so desperate for companionship, for a life other than the one she had lived thus far, that she was willing to do anything to get it.
This novel is absolutely Gothic in its creepy tone and moral ambiguity. Despite nothing truly bad happening for much of the book, each page instills a sense of dread and a question of what’s to come. Fans of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and Sarah Waters will love following Cara’s incongruous stories, Fuller’s hints at a supernatural presence, and the captivating, eerie setting of the Lyntons, a crumbling house that harbors secrets as much as it tells them, if one looks closely enough. My only wish is that this story had been a little bit longer; I wanted to spend more time with each revelation as it was divulged, but instead I felt as if I had to flit from thread to thread to thread. In the end, each thread was still pages away from becoming fully realized, but Fuller’s exquisite prose and overall ambiguity made the experience worth it.
|Page Count||320 pages|
|Publisher||Tin House Books|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|
|Category||Mystery, Crime & Thriller|