What’s Ahead

Most of what I’ve been reading lately is for our Coven Chat discussion posts (previously called Coven Reads), so I figured now’s a good time to announce what we’ll be talking about as a group in April and May.

The Starbound Trilogy, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this series for years, so I’m really looking forward to our discussion. I just finished These Broken Stars (#1), and I’ll finish This Shattered World (#2), and Their Fractured Light (#3) this week.  Since each book is about different characters and takes place in a new setting, I’m most curious about how they will relate to one another and bring clarity to the series’ overarching plot.


The Winner’s Trilogy, by Marie Rutkoski: The Winner’s Curse (#1) and The Winner’s Crime (#2) are a couple of my favorite books, so I can’t wait to read The Winner’s Kiss (#3), available tomorrow.


A Gathering of Shadows Final

The Shadowhunters Novels, by Cassandra Clare: I’m now finishing The Mortal Instruments books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire). Next I’ll read The Infernal Devices Trilogy (Clockwork AngelClockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess), along with the first book in The Dark Artifices Trilogy, Lady Midnight, and The Bane Chronicles. We’ll also compare the books to the Shadowhunters tv show, so I’m really excited for our discussion.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), by V.E. Schwab: Allison and I had so much fun discussing A Darker Shade of Magic last year, and I’m looking forward to talking about its sequel.

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater: I can’t wait to re-read The Raven Boys (#1) and The Dream Thieves (#2)  before The Raven King (#4) hits the shelves on April 26th. I’m glad I waited until now to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3), so I won’t have a painful wait between books 3 and 4.


23308084A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas: Last May Allison, Nicola and I had so much fun discussing A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I can’t wait to chat about this sequel with them!

The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh: The three of us loved The Wrath and the Dawn (see my recommendation) and are excited to discuss its sequel in May.

Have you read these series? Which books are you looking forward to the most? 

Happy Spring! – Alyssa 


The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


At its worst, the historical novel can be a kind of museum diorama: a grand and obsessively detailed but ultimately lifeless reconstruction of another period behind glass. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably read it anyway, or at least try. When a historical novel is good, though, it’s so darn good. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton’s debut novel, is the kind of historical fiction that reminds us to let in a little light and air: this is not a stuffy period piece, but an enjoyable historical novel with generous side of magic realism.

The Miniaturist is set in 1686 during Amsterdam’s waning Golden Age. The Amsterdam we come to know in the novel is richly rendered and full of contradictions: material excess and wealth abut conservative social codes and, meanwhile, an even more Puritanical energy seems to be taking root among the people. Petronella Oortman, or Nella as she’s called in the novel, arrives in Amsterdam as a wide-eyed young bride with good blood and fallen fortunes. She has been hastily married off to her new husband, the wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt; in exchange, he will help her family out of the debt accrued by her late father. In her exciting new life in the big city, Nella is suddenly mistress to a house that appears to be full of secrets and intrigue. Her merchant husband is emotionally and often geographically distant, and Nella doesn’t know whether she can trust the house’s other inhabitants: her stern sister-in-law Marin, and the household servants Cornelia and Otto.

Early in the novel, Nella obtains a dollhouse as a gift from her husband. The novel was in fact inspired by such an object of conspicuous consumption: a “cabinet house” once owned by the real Petronella Oortman that the author saw on a visit to Amsterdam. The actual cabinet house is on display at the Rijksmuseum, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet you can view it and other historical dollhouses by clicking over to the museum website. The Miniaturist is not intended to be a biographical piece about the real Petronella Oortman who was, in fact, a wealthy widow by the time she married Brandt. Instead, it’s a fun fiction arranged around the set piece of the dollhouse. In the author’s own words, “Her cabinet house is a thing of beauty, an exact replica of her real abode, at the same cost. I was inspired by her decision to spend thousands of dollars on a house she could not inhabit, food she couldn’t eat, and chairs she couldn’t sit on. Why did she do that?” The book’s plot grew out of this imaginative speculation rather than historical fact, and what results is a lush and engaging historical fantasy.

As Nella settles into her new home and begins to distract herself by furnishing the dollhouse with the finest miniatures that money can buy, she begins to notice odd similarities between her doll house and real life that seem to go well beyond the superficial. Or is she imagining the similarities? I’m going to stop here, though, for fear of spoiling anything. The interplay between the miniature world and the wider world, the replica and the real thing and, eventually, between Nella and the miniaturist is what makes this novel so fun.

The Miniaturist has been marketed as historical fiction but it is really historical fantasy, and it seems to have turned off many readers who were impatient with either the magical elements of the story or the departure from fact. If you come to this novel looking for the historical exactness of the Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall or Bring Up the Bodies, you will likely be disappointed. If you don’t much care where the story comes from as long as it’s well told, though, you’ll enjoy this book. It reminded me a bit of Sarah Dunant’s excellent novels The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, as well as The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch, but with the magical stylings of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. What’s that old adage about never letting the truth spoil a good story? Once I decided to give myself over to the storyteller and quit fact-checking, I thoroughly enjoyed the book for what it was: a very imaginative, immersive, and atmospheric novel that whisked me off to a period I don’t often get to see rendered in literature.

Melissa is writer who lives with her husband and two warring felines in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t reading, writing, or cooking, there’s a good chance she’s trying to clicker-train her cats.

A Story of Strangeness

I have tr18166936ied to write this recommendation in a number of ways. Telling too much about the plot will ruin your experience as a reader; I think the summaries in all the usual places give too much away. Yet, I know you’ll want to know something about the book I’m recommending — that’s why you’re here, after all. It’s not enough to say: “here is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton. Go read.”

If you’re as shallow as me, maybe that gorgeous cover is enough to draw you in, if not, I shall try to help. Let me begin where Ava does, because I don’t think it will hurt you to know a few things. First, Ava Lavender is the narrator of the story and she takes pains to tell you that the tale she’ll tell has been well researched, though perhaps biased, as it is about her own family. In trying to understand herself and the events that occurred the year she turned sixteen, she has to go back to the beginning, starting with her great grandparents’ immigration to America from France.

Ava takes us on a  transatlantic, transcontinental journey through time to tell us how the story of her strange and beautiful family came to shape the events of her life. In the prologue, Ava reveals that she wants to explain the consequences of being a girl born with a set of feathered wings. She says,

To many I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.


I was just a girl.

Walton’s ability as a storyteller is strong. Every snippet of a promise those opening words make is fulfilled. After I finished the novel, I was impressed with the way each part of the story clicked into place, solving the mystery the prologue lays out. Though the backstory of Ava’s family takes almost a full half of the book before getting to the real action, it’s never pointless. Every bit of the story Ava tells is used. Each piece of information given adds up to one climactic and devastating moment.

And that moment shocked me. The nature of Walton’s storytelling and the voice she gives Ava doesn’t quite jive with the intensity of the horrific climax. This seems intentional. Ava, being a sixteen year old girl at the time of this event didn’t see it coming, but careful readers will know. The signs are there. Still, let me say this, if tragic, incidental violence bothers you, this might not be the book for you. But the violence is not gratuitous. In fact, as I look at it now, it fits. Tragically, horrifically, it fits.

Ultimately, this is a story about femininity. It’s about the ways in which women are mothers, wives, lovers, friends, sisters and children. It’s about the way that strangeness in a woman often evokes fear, mistrust and sometimes violence. This is a story about powerful love and acceptance. It’s about listening to yourself and keeping good watch. It’s a reminder that pain can lead to love and renewal. It’s a powerful testament to women’s resilience.

I’d recommend this book to lovers of magical realism. Fans of Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake* and Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic will find a new favorite in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

Allison Carr Waechter is a writer, reader, teacher and lover of tea and a fat cat named Winnie. Find her on twitter or her website.

*If you’d like to read a recommendation for Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, we’ve got one right here.

Delightful Steampunk Romp: The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

soulless gail carrigerThere are many ways to define a good book. There are ones with brilliant worldbuilding, books that drag you in and make you wish you were in that world rather than just in your armchair. (Like V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.) There are ones with characters so alive you wish they could be your friend. (Like Jacky Faber from L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series.) There are ones whose words bleed off the page, visceral and emotional so that you quote it again and again. (Like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.) And then there are books that are all of this while somehow being a pure delight to read.

Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series is a pure delight to read.

The Parasol Protectorate series takes place in a steampunk London where all sorts of mythical creatures are real. Werewolves run in packs throughout the world, each with a designated Alpha to keep them in line – though somehow a pack ended up taking residence right on the outskirts of the city, the scoundrels.Vampires are real, and while most are confined to the area where their queens reside, there are a few misfits who run around on their own. And there are automatons, and strange mechanical ladybugs, and there was that incident one time with a hedgehog… but we don’t talk about it.

Within this world, we follow Alexia Tarabotti, a woman who was born with an Italian nose and no soul whatsoever, and so has landed herself as a spinster among London’s upper-ranking social classes. It’s not something she minds – she’s in no rush to settle down, much to her mother’s constant chagrin – but why settle down when there are so many interesting things to explore?

There is, for instance, the vampire that attacked her in the middle of a private ball. Why was he alone? Where was his queen, and why did she not explain to him that Alexia, having been born without a soul, can cancel out his supernatural abilities? And why is he not the only loner roaming the streets of London?

There is also Lord Conall Maccon, the gruff Alpha werewolf of the London pack and the head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. He seems to know a lot about the mysteries going on in London, and doesn’t want her involved at all. Of course, that means she just has to be involved. And if he happens to be nice on the eyes, and happens

A steampunk romp is the best way to describe this book. It’s action-packed with a most wonderful smattering of romance. There are moments that will make you laugh and moments that will make you gasp and all of it is fun. Plus you get the most amazing side characters – Lord Akeldama, the most clever independent vampire of them all; Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia’s best friend with a fondness for ecentric hats; and Genevive Lefoux, the strange scientist who insists on dressing like a man.

And that’s just the first book. Why would I talk about the others? Spoilers are awful things – but trust me, they’re all equally fun and delightful. And once you devour them, Carriger has two spin-off series set in the same world. What’s not to like?

Nicole Brinkley has blonde hair and a love of dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is the editor of YA Interrobang and a bookseller. She spends a lot of time on Twitter and Tumblr.

Coven Reads Discussion: White is for Witching

White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi  is CBC’s first book in our “Coven Reads” series. The book was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist and in 2010 won the Somerset Maugham Award. Oyeyemi’s fascination with fairy tale and legend suffuse this elegiac text, where the modern and gothic meet to create a contemporary novel that evokes the Brontës in mystery and the horrors a house can conceal.

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed.

Our discussion veers away from our usual commitment to providing spoiler free commentary, so those who haven’t read the book may want to revisit this conversation later, as we do reveal some of the pivotal plot points in the text. Those who have already read the book, read on and give us your take in the comments!

6073584White is for Witching tends to evoke strong feelings from its readers, what was your immediate reaction?

Allison: I started the book in the afternoon and read through ‘til I finished. As soon as I was done, my first reaction was: “I should not have read this at night” and then “That was so good” and after that “I’m going to make someone else read this.” Shortly thereafter, I popped it in the mail and the book made its way to Annie.

Annie: I quite literally could not put it down. I almost made myself late (maybe I was late and I’m revising) to a social deal because I had to immediately reread the book. As soon as I finished it I thought, “Wait. Wait. Wait! What the hell!?” All of which was followed by the need to contemplate the book very carefully. So I read it again. I read it three times in two days.

Maria: I was very confused when I started reading the book –I wasn’t sure who the characters were and it was hard to discern the places where the narrators switched. It took me quite a while to realize that one of the narrators was the house itself, even though it’s clearly labelled “29 barton road.” The book seemed like a puzzle to me – pieces of information from different narrators and different time periods all jumbled together. The more I read, the more interested I became.

Allison: I had the same problem and I think it’s a pretty common one, from reviews I’ve read. Ultimately, it works, I think because the pace moves so quickly that you get drawn in, but the first fifty pages or so were a period of confusion for me. Quickly, I became invested in the mystery of what was going on. The consternation of not being able to pin anything down made me ravenous to know what happened next.

Maria: Like Annie, when I finished, I immediately went back to the beginning and started reading it again. It doesn’t begin in the middle of a sentence, like Finnegan’s Wake, but I think White is for Witching shares some similarities with Joyce’s enigmatic final work. It is also structured as a never-ending cycle; the beginning doesn’t really make sense unless you’ve read the rest of the book. And there are quite a few places throughout the book where a single word (the last one in the sentence) is separated from the rest of the text because it is also the first word of the next sentence. So as a reader, you’re constantly looking backwards and forwards, to the past and the future.

Allison: Yeah, the way Oyeyemi plays with time is so cool. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but the slippery nature of the narrative’s timeline is mesmerizing. I too, went back and read through the first few sections again, immediately after finishing.

Annie: There’s a polyvocality to the book in a lot of places that sometimes slams back into a univocality dominated by the house. I agree with you two about how Oyeyemi deals with narrative and historical time, and I think the kind of crashing between multiple voices and one voice also does a lot for the movement in time. The temporal movement becomes so fluid in some places and so jagged and frightening in others that it makes me think of correspondences to generational events that feel epochal and epochal events that feel generational–death, war, violence, imperialism, and all of the legacies that spring out of those things. Love does this, too, right? There are speaking parts that seem temporally incongruous, and it’s difficult to tell what time they are coming from, or if they are coming from living people.

Alyssa: This is definitely the most challenging and confusing book I’ve read in many years (probably since Joyce, so I like Maria’s comparison). I’ve been reading a lot of YA and commercial fiction as of late, so I’m used to rather straightforward plots. I know I should read White is for Witching at least twice, and since I’ve only read it once (and just finished it minutes ago), I’m still very confused. Like all of you, I think it’s amazing how Oyeyemi plays with time and narrative. I also was fascinated by the repetition of certain narrative details and themes. I would love to know more about her creative process while writing and revising this book. I haven’t done any research yet, but I’d like to look at reviews and author interviews. I’m going to let all of you discuss and gain a better understanding of the book by reading what you say below. Such a wise group of witches. Thank you!

What struck you about the characters (the house included)?  PBB GRID.indd

Allison: This book reminds me so much of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (which I recommended last week), so Miri, and the Silver family in general didn’t surprise me much. However, the house having its own voice in the narrative threw me a little at first. Eventually, my fascination with it grew into that strange liking you often get for truly well-written villains.

Maria: I agree about the house. It’s such an interesting figure- trapping the Silver women in an attempt to protect them. I don’t know if “protect” is the best verb to use here, but it seems like there is something motherly about its behavior- especially when it traps Jennifer. The house explains, “Jennifer really meant to abandon her daughter, and how could I allow that?” Of course, the house also seems to gain sustenance from the Silver women, so its instincts are also predatory.

Annie: I loved Sade and Ore and the Paul even though he is a minor character. The Paul is gentle, which is difficult to be in this world. The Paul gives sustenance in a way that generationally precedes Luc, and the best moments in Luc’s struggle to nurture and feed Miri seem to come from the Paul.

Sade is an exceptionally deep character. She knows and sees so much. Early in the story, before the house begins to really attack her, she brings a kind of warmth to Luc and the home (not the house) that no one ever really does, not even Lily when she was still living. Sade always reminds the reader that there is an outside, too. When she takes food to the Immigration Removal Centre, when she turns up the radio to hear the devastating report about the Chinese immigrants, when she speaks to Ore and warns her and helps her, Sade pushes against the crushing insularity of the house and, really, of Dover as the story presents it.

Allison: I think Sade is our first indication that something is truly wrong with the house from an outside perspective. The Silvers are so accustomed to it that as a reader, I think you start to believe it’s “normal,” within the text at least. Ore functions in much the same way, she gives us the go-ahead to understand that the house isn’t “right” in the world of the novel.

Maria: I loved Ore too. She’s such an interesting character, and she’s one of the only narrators who isn’t part of the Silver family (depending on if you consider the house a member of the family or not). She provides a bit of an outsider’s perspective on the family, and Miri especially. She also gives the reader a more recognizable term for the goodlady: “soucouyant.”

Annie: Ore means so much to this story in so many different ways. She is a fighter and heroine, but also a friend and a lover who has a clear perspective in the way that only someone outside of the house can. I agree with Maria about Ore’s ability to clarify what is actually going on in the house and the unpleasant truth of Eliot.

Allison: Oh my lord, Eliot. I did not see that kind of crazy coming. His obsession with Miri, as it unfolded, was actually a little shocking to me.

Maria: I was also caught off guard by Eliot’s obsession, Allison.

Allison: I think though that as much as Eliot eventually disturbed me, Ore balanced him out. His love for Miri is selfish, while Ore’s is much less so. Ore’s sections of the narrative paint Miri as a whole person, one who is deeply flawed and damaged, but one who can love and who has escaped the world the house builds. Ore is the reader’s window into the surreal world of the house and her part of the narration does so much to ground the frightening aspects of the book and make them real. She and Sade are both the “comforting” characters for me, the ones who make some sense of the confusion that lots of the narrative evokes.

Annie: Ore has an innate intelligence and ability to trust herself that helps her implement Sade’s help and thereby avoid being devoured by the house or destroyed by the Silver women or Eliot. Ore’s family is a very vital rendering of the kind of Englishness that (despite her skinhead cousins Adam and Sean) resists the monolithic pathological nature of the house and the chauvinism and violence t18330843hat fills it and feeds it. Ore’s home is full of people, messy incongruous people, but people who love each other very much. We find out that her parents did everything they could to be able to foster Ore, and it’s clear that she and her family belong to each other. It’s so telling that even cousins Adam and Sean express some distaste for Dover, too.

Though the book isn’t exactly horror, it definitely has some terrifying and supernatural elements. What parts of the book scared you the most?

Maria: Hands down, my favorite scene is the one where Miranda goes through the trapdoor into the small room below the house, and sees the ghosts of her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother sitting around the table set for four. Miranda’s description of her grandmother and great-grandmother (Jennifer and GrandAnna) is stunning:

They leaned forward anticipating a meal. They were naked except for corsets laced so tightly that their desiccated bodies dipped in and out like parchment scrolls bound around the middle. They stared at Miranda in numb agony. Padlocks were placed over their parted mouths, boring through the top lip and closing at the bottom. Miranda could see their tongues writhing.

Perhaps “stunning” isn’t the adjective I should be using- “terrifying,” “scary,” or “disturbing” might be more appropriate, but there is something beautiful about Oyeyemi’s attention to detail here. I was transfixed, fascinated, even though I knew I should turn away from it (especially when Jalil’s fingers start coming through the holes in the wall). Somehow, I didn’t have nightmares after reading White is for Witching, even though it’s a very dark book.  I’m curious if you ladies feel similarly, or if the book did thoroughly creep you out?

Allison: As I said before, I finished the book when it was late and our house was quiet, too quiet maybe… It wasn’t that the book gave me nightmares, but it left me feeling breathless and just unable to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It took me weeks to get over this book.

The scene you’re talking about really got to me — it sends chills down my spine to read the quote you pulled, but I think for me, the entire time Ore was in the house was what scared me most. I think it’s because she’s the one we relate to, as readers; she’s our vehicle into Miri’s world. Up until that point I think I thought that a lot of Miri’s weirdness was, like, in her own head, you know? Miri seems like a pretty text-book “unreliable narrator” and anything from Eliot or the house’s perspectives was clearly not to be trusted from the beginning, so when Ore goes there, you trust what happens to her… and what happens to her is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read.

Annie: No, no nightmares, but a lot of contemplation and general feelings of being disturbed. The scenes in which the house is unabashedly bigoted made me shudder because they have a particularly visceral quality to them. When Miri tries to eat the beef and vegetables that Luc makes for her and meets a jagged-toothed shadow self (maybe an incarnation of the soucouyant), I could hear the house spitting “As for beef, as for his Frenchie beef and fucking potatoes ha ha.” It’s like the generations of pica-suffering Silver women and the house get all Legion-voiced, and maybe Miri’s voice is in there or maybe not. It’s hard to tell, but chilling. When the house talks about Ore, when we discover Eliot’s true nature; there are so many scenes in the book that not only disturbed me, but also had intense staying power. (My initial answer to this question was, “Uhhh… can I just write 70% of the book?”)

Allison: Yeah, when I try to narrow it down to one or two things I’m left wanting to wave the book around and scream, “ALLLLLLLL OF IT.”

Annie: One other thing that stayed with me is how Oyeyemi can take sentences that are almost sparse–three to five monosyllabic words–and make them richly, deeply terrifying.

Allison: Yes, that’s stuck with me for a long time.

Do you have any lingering questions about parts of the narrative that were unresolved?

Maria: Okay, so who was stabbing the Kosovans? Was it Emma, Eliot’s ex-girlfriend who smokes the red-tipped cigarettes? Or are we really supposed to believe it’s some version of Miranda?

Allison: I don’t know! I wondered the same thing.

Annie: I wondered that too, but not for long as I chalked it all up to the anti-immigrant violence that we see haunting the text. It could have been Emma or a Miri doppelganger, I suppose. More than that I wondered what we are to do with Luc, especially since he seems to figure quite a lot out by the end.

Allison: Let’s be honest, there’s several things that are at loose ends. I’m wondering about a lot of things still.

What are your overall takeaways? Why would you recommend this book to others?6277227

Allison: So y’all know The Night Circus is the book I recommend the most, and that’s largely because it’s so accessible. It’s dark, but not scary. This is the second book I recommend most, but only to folks who really like dark narratives and can handle the potentially disturbing nature of the book.

I love the way Oyeyemi plays with language. Maria mentioned the “stunning” nature of Oyeyemi’s prose and I completely agree. On this merit alone, I recommend this book to people who love gorgeous writing. Lots of Oyeyemi’s work plays with fairy tales and this one is no different. It’s a book I find myself thinking about on quiet afternoons and it’s been almost a year since I read it for the first time.

So basically, I’d recommend this book to people who don’t mind being scared and who appreciate narrative elements we’ve discussed like Oyeyemi’s gorgeous prose and the way she plays with time. I think you have to be a patient reader to really go for this text. As a side note, because of this discussion and the way it’s stuck with me for so long, I’m assigning it in the summer writing course I’m teaching on issues of race, gender and class. I think it will work perfectly.

Maria: I would recommend this book to others, but very selectively. It’s a challenging read, and not everyone has the patience to work out all the puzzles in the narrative. However, the fact that the book is so short makes it easier to re-read a few times.

I can think of some friends who would absolutely love this book because it’s so strange and complex. It also makes for fantastic discussions- there’s so much going on, so much to piece together. I could talk about it for days. It would make wonderful reading material for a literature class, but I think it could be fun to do with a book club as well. On a related note, I’m going to make time to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle now, so thank you Allison!

Annie: My colleagues have said most of what needs to be said here. This is one of the best works of fiction I have read in years. Grown-up political me, spooky subculture kid me, horror fan me, and doctoral student me all came to the table and agreed on this book. As Allison mentioned, she sent the book to me in a care package and also because we were compelled to be able to talk about it together. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a challenging book that refuses to comfort its readers and avoids the gratuitous. I would also recommend it to writers as a way to say, “Hey, look what powerful things words can be and do.”

Thanks so much for joining us and let us know in the comments, on twitter, Facebook or tumblr, what you thought of the book.