by Marjorie DeLuca
3 / 5 stars
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We meet Clara following a traumatizing loss and subsequent confinement in an asylum under the direction of her controlling husband. I struggled with this book, I think largely because of how disturbing it was that Clara’s treatment at the hands of husband was not altogether unheard of or uncommon during the time period. The lack of mental health awareness and treatment available to women was appalling and I found it so difficult to reconcile that.
Then, Clara meets Mary Ann Cotton, an infamous poisoner facing a death sentence, who becomes inextricably tied to Clara’s life. And there are some pretty clear parallels between Clara and Mary Ann, and you can see that for Clara’s privilege (i.e. money) she might find herself facing the same fate as the imprisoned. I only felt that, while I think you can certainly argue that Mary Ann is a sympathetic character, and she helps Clara come into her own, the relationship still feels altogether manipulative. I never got the sense that Mary Ann’s intentions were strictly honorable and her motivations in befriending Clara don’t seem all that different from Clara’s husband.
Overall I think a well done story, compelling and I like the tie in of the true life story of Mary Ann Cotton.
Thank you to Netgalley and Inkshares for providing me with an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.