The Glass of Time by Michael Cox

If you are a follower of my blog, then you probably know that I have a little obsession with the Victorian Era and with books set in that period. Hence, you may not be surprised to hear that I was eager to read Michael Cox’s The Glass of Time.

Luckily, I received a copy of this great book from John Murray Publishers and after I have spent the last days reading The Glass of Time, I must say that it lived up to my expectations, just as I imagined it. This novel was everything I expected: 531 pages packed with suspense, mysteries, intrigues, betrayal and romance – the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable gothic romance! But now, let’s have a look at the plot:

1876: Nineteen-year-old orphan Esperanza Gorst has been living in France ever since her parents died years ago. She cannot remember her dear parents and doesn’t know much about them. When they died, they left their young daughter in the care of Madame de l’Orme and Mr. Thornhaugh and she has received a most remarkable education from them. Thus, when her guardians send her to England to occupy a position as a lady’s maid at the gothic house of Evenwood, it soon becomes clear that Esperanza will not take on the role of an ordinary servant. Madame de l’Orme and Mr. Thornhaugh have sent the young girl to Evenwood with a specific purpose in mind. They want Esperanza to fulfil a Great Task, but the heroine doesn’t know yet what this task is about. She has been told to wait for three ‘Letters of Instruction’ that will clarify her role at Evenwood. In the meantime, Esperanza’s assignment will be to win over her new mistress, the former Emily Carteret, now the 26th Baroness Tansor. With her charm and intelligence, the heroine succeeds in accomplishing her task and she wins Lady Tansor’s trust and respect over the course of time. Soon, she is no longer a lady’s maid, but she is Lady Tansor’s companion and friend. As Esperanza receives the first two letters of instruction, she learns that she must not trust Lady Tansor, but rather to consider her as an enemy. However, Esperanza finds it hard to do so, since she pities Lady Tansor, as Esperanza sees that Lady Tansor is plagued by grief and sorrow. Although her mistress is strict and disdainful to others, she is kind to Esperanza and the young girl finds it hard to regard her as her enemy. Nevertheless, the nineteen-year-old has to fulfil the Great Task and follow the letters of instruction that tell her to uncover Lady Tansor’s dark secrets. As Esperanza digs deeper into Lady Tansor’s past, she finds herself entangled in a web full of shocking mysteries, murders, deceptions, jealousy and revenge. She also finally finds out why she has been sent to Evenwood, and when she does, she is shocked to learn that there is a connection between her and Lady Tansor. But what kind of connection? At Evenwood (and everywhere else, it seems), people are not who they pretend to be and Esperanza must pay heed before it’s too late, as dangers are all around her. Whom can she really trust and will she be able to fulfil the Great Task?

Well, if you want to know the answers to these questions, you will have to read this captivating book. I won’t tell you more about it, as I don’t want to spoil this haunting tale. All I can say is that you must read The Glass of Time if you are a fan of gothic romances and if you like to read books that are set in the Victorian Period. I promise you that you will enjoy this well written novel, as it’s a page-turner and a fascinating read that will appeal to everyone who loves a suspenseful mystery with a touch of romance. In this engrossing tale, nothing is quite as it seems and you will witness how the past can haunt one’s present as one cannot always accomplish to leave the past behind so easily!

I really loved The Glass of Time and I am looking forward to reading Michael Cox’s other novel The Meaning of Night in the near future!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

You know you’ll love a book if the first page makes you long for more and if you forget about everything else that surrounds you. But if the first sentence already overwhelms you and you just want to read on and on and never stop reading, then it must be an amazing book. And for me, that was the case with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I just couldn’t put this book down and I was lost in du Maurier’s beautiful writing style and her vivid descriptions. The entire book is just fascinating and you’re aware of this fact when you just read the first sentence:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

As a reader, you immediately begin to ask a lot of questions (Where is Manderely? What happened there? Who is the narrator?). You just want to find out more about the mysterious speaker and about Manderley. With each page, I was eager to find out more about the narrator and about Rebecca. Needless to say, I just loved this book and it is now one of my favorite books. I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, as I knew about it from my mother and grandmother. We had this book for as long as I can remember, but yet, I didn’t get to read it and I don’t understand why. But better too late than never, right? I am just glad that I finally had the chance to read such a wonderful and engaging book that astounds you and takes you to places who have never dreamed of!

This time, I won’t dwell on the summary of the book, since I think that most of you have already read it. (In case you haven’t read it yet, you can find out more about this book here). Instead, I want to do something different this time. I am going to answer some study questions and that way, you can find out what I have to say in particular about this excellent novel.

I’ve chosen three questions for further reflection:

Why do you think the narrator remains nameless?

If you have read the book, you may have noticed that the heroine’s name is never revealed in this novel. I think that the absence of a name symbolizes how uncertain the heroine is of herself; when she marries Maxim, she takes his name, but she doesn’t feel really comfortable in it, because she is not the first to have taken Maxim’s name. She is not the first Mrs. de Winter, and thus she has to compete with the late Mrs. de Winter, with Rebecca. Rebecca’s name is haunting the narrator like a dark shadow throughout the book and it’s even the book’s title. The heroine feels defeated and overpowered by Rebecca, until she finds out the truth about her. When she learns about Rebecca’s true nature, our heroine is suddenly feeling at ease; she no longer fears Rebecca and she begins to feel comfortable as Mrs. de Winter and as the mistress of Manderley.

What makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature?

There are many gothic elements presented to us throughout the book, but ultimately, it’s Rebecca’s “ghost” what makes this novel a work of Gothic Literature. From the beginning, the narrator has to compete with Rebecca. Everyone compares her to Rebecca and our heroine feels haunted by Maxim’s first wife. Her spirit is still present at Manderley, partly because Manderley is still run just as Rebecca has run it and also because Mrs. Danvers keeps Rebecca’s bedroom ready for her, as if Rebecca would return any minute. Furthermore, Rebecca’s memory is piercing the house and all of those who knew her. Our heroine feels her presence everywhere; every little thing reminds her of Rebecca; from the pen she uses to write letters to the chair she sits in. Everyone is still talking of Rebecca, preserving her memory, and mourning over her death. Thus, Rebecca’s “ghost” is haunting our narrator. Even though we are not talking about a real ghost, or supernatural forces, Rebecca is still present at Manderley; although she is dead, Rebecca’s spirit is still filling up the rooms with the help of her “messenger”, Mrs. Danvers, who is very devoted to Rebecca and who is willing to retain her memory forever, at all cost.

How does Maxim’s relationship with our heroine develop throughout the novel?

At the beginning, our nameless narrator is really happy when she marries Maxim. She has a great time on their honeymoon and she is anxious to arrive at Manderley and to take on the new role as Mrs. de Winter and as the new mistress of the house. But when the couple arrives at Manderley, the heroine sees that Rebecca’s presence dominates the place. Everything is run exactly as it was run when Rebecca was alive. Mrs. Danvers, who admired Rebecca, is always mentioning the former mistress of Manderley and she makes clear that she doesn’t approve of the narrator. The sinister Mrs. Danvers makes our heroine feel inferior and she tells her how much everyone loved the perfect Rebecca, especially Maxim. Thus, our heroine begins to feel intimidated by Rebecca and she begins to wonder if Maxim still loves Rebecca. Maxim and the narrator don’t really spend time together, and Maxim doesn’t tell his wife that he loves her. The heroine thinks that Maxim doesn’t love her and that he has married her only because he didn’t want to be alone anymore. She feels that Maxim treats her like a child and that he makes fun of her. During the course of the novel, everything changes, because Maxim tells her the truth about Rebecca’s evil nature. He tells her that Rebecca’s image was a mere illusion; she was not who she seemed, and therefore, our heroine doesn’t have to compete with the late Rebecca anymore. Maxim finally confesses his love for the narrator, and their bond grows stronger. They are companions now, who share everything with each other and there are no secrets that stand between them anymore. At the beginning, Maxim was distant to her and Rebecca was always lying in-between, but now that everything has been clarified, Rebecca’s shadow cannot interfere with the couple anymore. The question is if they are really happy now, with everything they’ve been through. So many things have happened that none of them will be able to forget and even though they love each other, the past is still haunting them from time to time. Daphne du Maurier gives little hints here and there (at the beginning of the novel) and the reader can conclude that not everything is perfect for the couple. Even if you want to forget your past, you can never quite accomplish that, because there will always be certain things that will remind you of it!

I wish I could answer more questions, but I am afraid that I would give away too much and I don’t want to spoil the story. For those who haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s masterpiece, I highly recommend that you do so. You won’t regret it, as Rebecca is an amazing tale full of dark secrets, remarkable characters and mysteries. This novel has everything I expect from a great book: psychological suspense, gothic elements, romance and twists. I just loved this book from beginning to end as it reminded me a little bit of Jane Eyre (one of my favorite books). I loved the characters and the plot was captivating and mesmerizing! Daphne du Maurier has created a fantastic and unforgettable tale and her descriptions and writing style are beautiful and breath-taking! I can’t wait to read other novels by this talented writer (I only read Frenchman’s Creek a few years ago)!