From the international bestselling author of The Botanist’s Daughter and The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant comes this enchanting gothic mystery set against the lavish backdrop of Britain’s eighteenth-century silk trade.
Present day: Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at Oxleigh College, an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside, only to learn that she is to look after the school’s first intake of girls in its 150-year history – a task that will essentially see the school into the 21st century. Thea is to stay with the girls in the mysterious Silk House, a building with a long and murky past that is concealing a centuries-old secret. As Thea manages her new charges – and encounters a couple of stuffy academics who are none too pleased with the school’s sudden influx of women – strange incidents begin to occur at Silk House, setting Thea on a course to uncover its troubling history.
1768: Rowan Caswell leaves the comfort of her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant in the bustling town of Oxleigh. Here, she finds herself thrust into a new world where her talent for healing and herbs soon attracts attention, and not the welcome kind. Rowan must be careful, for she lives in dangerous times when a woman could be driven from her home, tortured or worse, at the slightest mention of the word witch.
Mary-Louise Stephenson dreams of becoming one of London’s most famous silk designers. There’s just one problem – none of the master weavers will consider commissioning the work of a woman. But after accepting an unexpected offer from a charming silk merchant in Oxleigh, Mary begins to design a length of fabric with a pattern of poisonous flowers that will have prolonged consequences for all who inhabit the Silk House.
Author Kayte Nunn does not disappoint in this moody and atmospheric gothic tale, as she delves seamlessly between timelines to unearth the secrets of the titular Silk House. The setting of the house is eerie, richly imagined, and seems to take on a life of its own.
Another strength of The Silk House is the way it centres on the female experience, as each of the protagonists makes their way through – and prevails within – a world dominated by men. Kayte Nunn deftly weaves together the perspectives of her three very different female protagonists to produce a captivating story that lifts up and celebrates women. The Silk House is another brilliant novel from Kayte Nunn, and I can’t wait to see what she delivers next. An utter delight.