Summary from book cover:
Boston, 1915. 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 a town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl seeks answers in the depths of a medium’s crystal ball.
When her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange woman, Sibyl seeks out psychology professor Benton Derby, despite an unspoken tension from their shared past. As they work together to solve a harrowing mystery, they realize that there may be something more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass.
From the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown to the 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.
Katherine Howe’s novel The House of Velvet and Glass was the March book for the virtual book club that I am involved in this year. After a disappointing February book, I was glad to find myself once again involved with a book that I found difficult to put down. Katherine Howe’s style of writing has such an ease to it, that her novels seem to move on their own accord. This is the second novel of Howe’s that I have read, and her ability to create stories has left me once again very impressed.
Howe has a gift to take historic events in New England and weave fictional characters around such profound events in American history. I found myself drawn into the lives of the Allston family after their devastating experience with the Titanic. While the reader is mostly given Sibyl, there is a great juxtaposition in perspective and point-of-view through different chapters. This juxtaposition allows the reader to ascertain information that at first seems to not make sense, but in a great way starts to come together throughout the novel.
I found the relationships created by Howe to be very believable and relatable. The Allston family could be any family found throughout American history as one that deals with tragedy and their ways of learning how to cope with their lives and each other. The relationship between Sibyl and Professor Derby was also one that was timeless and interesting to watch as it developed. This is a novel that I would highly recommend to anyone, but especially to someone with a penchant for historical fiction.