An irresistible sapphic historical romance from a dazzlingly talented new Australian voice.
Charlotte has always known she is different. Where other young women see their destiny in marriage and motherhood, the reclusive Charlotte wants only to work with her father in his stationery business; perhaps even run it herself one day. Then Flora Dalton bursts through the shop door and into Charlotte’s life – and a new world of baffling desires and possibilities seems to open up to her.
But Melbourne society of the 1890s is not built to embrace unorthodoxy. When tragedy strikes and Charlotte is unmoored by grief, she finds herself admitted to Kew Lunatic Asylum ‘for her own safety’.
There she learns that women enter the big white house on the hill for many reasons, not all of them to do with lunacy. That her capacity for love, loyalty and friendship is greater than she had ever understood. And that it will take all of these things – along with an unexpected talent for guile – to extract herself from the care of men and make her way back to her heart’s desires.
A compulsively readable historical romance, House of Longing combines an effortless instinct for narrative with impeccable research, lightly worn. House of Longing is the debut of a major talent.
It takes an excellent writer to bring a story like this to life. Tara Calaby clearly has a strong imagination and rigorous discipline for historic research, as well as a sensitivity for the characters navigating the world in which they tread here. Calaby has succeeded in doing this with triumphant aplomb and, yes, a huge amount of love.
What a stunning debut novel. Calaby writes with ease and grace, transporting us to a time that, in some ways, is still too recent considering the misogyny and inhumanity which took place. Though House of Longing submerges us deeply into Charlotte’s inner world and her plight, being savagely diagnosed as a lunatic as opposed to a grief stricken daughter who’s heartbroken and unsure of securing a future. There’s a rather hypnotic rhythm to Calaby’s writing, full of compassion and comprehensive depth, in a way that’s both compelling and soulful.
Charlotte is an equal parts fascinating and sympathetic character. And Flora lights up the page with her vim, zest and fear. House of Longing is a beautiful romance that will break your heart, restore it and set it soaring with hope. I’m so excited to see what this talented debut novelist shares with us next. Lucky us!