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Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Bitter Orange (edition 2018)

by Claire Fuller (Author)

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9210189,149 (4.16)1
Title:Bitter Orange
Authors:Claire Fuller (Author)
Info:Tin House Books (2018), 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book, I would give it 4 and a half stars if I could. ( )
  CharlotteBurt | Nov 24, 2018 |
I've heard it said that the devil is in the details. This novel not only has some great descriptive passages, but they are used in a way that draws the reader into the story, while also making this memorable. A limited amount of characters, Frances, near forty, a spinster who yearns for love, has spent over twenty years taking care of her mother. Cara, a young Irish woman, who loves everything Italian, and her partner Peter who seems to be Cara's anchor. Then lastly, but he appears near the beginning, is the churchman Victor, he tries to get the truth from Frances, twenty years later.

A crumbling house, unreliable narrators, one can never quite believe what they are being told. Indeed it is in the descriptions, the details and what is not being said that provide the clues. The suspense starts at a low boil, but ratchets upward as the book progresses. Always, again aided by the details, a face in a window, a dead bird, the sound of someone beneath the bath, a smell of urine, I felt a underlying sense of dread.

I enjoyed this book immensely, became lost in the characters story, never knowing quite what was going on, who was telling the truth, and what was being hidden. A key theme is obsession and even though right in the beginning we know how one character ends up, we don't know why, we do know these type of stories seldom end well. It seems, unless I missed something, that a few threads remained unanswered. Surprisingly, that didn't at all dim my appreciation for this wonderful work.

ARC from Edelweiss. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 18, 2018 |
I ended up reading half the book in one evening. Yes, I stayed up too late but had to finish it.

On her deathbed, Frances Jellico believes she is being pressured by a Vicar to tell the truth of what really happened over a hot summer in 1969 when she was hired to evaluate the gardens of a crumbling 1740s c. English country house.

At thirty-nine. Frances had led a narrow life caring for her incapacitated, critical, and recently deceased mother. Grateful for the work, Frances arrived at the house to discover a man about her age and a younger women already staying there. Peter was hired to evaluate the house and furnishings. His companion Cara is beautiful and emotionally unstable. Frances is curious about their lives.

"I know of course right from wrong. My father, Luther Jellico, had instilled it into me before he left and then Mother had continued in her way: payment will always be due for any wrongdoing, don't lie or steal, don't talk to strange men, don't speak unless spoken to, don't look your mother in the eye, don't drink, don't smoke, don't expect anything from life." from Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

The house showed abuse and destruction from the soldiers stationed there during WWII, rooms empty and everything in disrepair. Strange things happen in the house, including the interactions between the Peter protective and volatile Cara.

Peter and Cara draw Frances into their carefree existence, setting aside their work for picnics with wine and smoking cigarettes and even a nude swim. Cara tells Frances her tragic story while Peter asks Frances to help him keep tabs on the mercurial Cara.

The local Vicar warns Frances to escape their influence.

It is too late, for these people are caught in a web of lies and fantasy that unravels with fatal consequences. And Frances accepts that "Payment will always be due." ( )
  nancyadair | Nov 5, 2018 |
Frances Jellico finds herself at an old, run-down estate with an odd and charismatic couple in the summer of 1969. Having just nursed her dying and overbearing mother, Frances is at a loose end, so she accepts an assignment assessing and cataloguing gardens of a crumbling country estate. Lyttons, the estate, is owned by an American investor, and is falling victim to overgrowth and decay. At Lyttons Frances meets Cara and Peter, an odd and intriguing couple. The more time Cara spends with them, the more obsessed she becomes. Frances is socially maladjusted. She has no friends, and no life of her own outside her dead mother. Frances quickly becomes fodder for the lying and dishonest Cara and Peter.

The book is told in retrospect, and from the beginning we learn that Frances in the present is dying, alone in some sort of facility. As the story unfolds we learn what exactly happened that summer, and why everyone has wondered about Frances ever since. This is a great read- lots of atmosphere, building suspense, and odd characters. Creepy old manor houses are always the best settings. Undoing the setting at Lyttons kept me reading. ( )
  lahochstetler | Sep 3, 2018 |
Thank you, Claire Fuller! I thought I would be doomed to read forgettable three star novels for the rest of the year, and then this random selection saved me! Part ghost story, part murder mystery, Bitter Orange is the most captivating book I have read in 2018 so far. Every character is sympathetic, if not likeable, with hidden secrets which slowly unravel, pacing the plot so neatly that every chapter is a cliffhanger, keeping the reader hooked. And like Du Maurier's Rebecca, which this reminded me of, the house is a character in itself - based on the Grange Estate in Hampshire, Lyntons is a gothic treasure trove, full of hidden rooms and crumbling history.

Amateur historian Frances Jellico is hired by an American businessman to write a report on the garden architecture of a dilapidated mansion, abandoned since the end of the Second World War. There she meets Peter, who is there to take stock of the house's interior, and his enigmatic wife Cara. They spend the summer of 1969 together, rambling around the old building and getting to know each other, but like Lyntons, some secrets are best left buried deep.

From the deeply unreliable narrator, Frances, whom I identified with far too closely in the early chapters and then quickly started to shy away from, to the incredible house which gives Manderley a run for its money, this is a more like a compendium of separate short stories tied beautifully together and framed in the style of Wuthering Heights. Is there any truth to Cara's elaborate storytelling? Who is haunted, the house or its guests? Did Frances witness a tragedy that summer or cause one? I loved every page!

Definitely recommended, especially for curing reader's ennui. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Aug 25, 2018 |
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