Review: BITTER ORANGE by Claire Fuller

Janelle Advance Copy, Book Reviews, From Publisher, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Tin House Leave a Comment

Thank you so much Tin House for my free review copy – all opinions are my own.


From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them―Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives. To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled. But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.

‘’I discovered that in the early part of the morning a mist hovered in the hollows of the estate and the grass was wet with dew. There was a smell in the air of bonfires, the land already preparing for autumn.’’ 

My Review: 

This is an atmospheric, haunting, and twisty story with beautiful language that will keep you captivated until the very end.

In the summer of 1969, Frances Jellico is commissioned by the new owner to survey and write a report of a dilapidated mansion located in the idyllic English countryside just outside of London. Frances leaves everything behind and settles into the mansion’s attic for the summer, but when she meets a young couple, Cara and Peter, staying in the space below her, she becomes intoxicated. Peter is there to evaluate the mansion’s contents but the three of them strike up a friendship with an abundance of wine, cigarettes, indulgent meals, and sunbathing that consumes their entire summer.

BITTER ORANGE is a tension building mystery with a sinister plot at its core. The sole narrator is Frances and she’s a bit unstable since the death of her mother. We see every moment and hear every sound through Frances. Her perception of the world is much narrowed due to her upbringing and her relationship with her mother. I found Frances melodramatic and I adored Cara. The setting is reminiscent of the works of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie with the obscure village, old church, and mysterious graveyard. The house is filled with quiet whispers and unexplained shadows with madness and obsession that permeate throughout this eerie, modern classic.

My rating is 5 out of 5 stars!

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