Book Review: Set in Stone by Linda Newbery

15 Mar

ImageWhen Samuel Godwin moves to Four Winds, the lofty home of the Farrow family, he expects to serve as an art tutor to Mr. Farrow’s teenaged daughters. He doesn’t expect to fall hopelessly in love with the place, and become intrigued and beguiled by the younger daughter, Marianne. But there are secrets here that Samuel is only just beginning to unravel–and even as he thinks he’s found his answers, even more horrible conclusions are drawn, until it seems quite too late for Samuel and the entire Farrow family.

On the cover of my copy of the book, it says that it’s won the Costa Children’s Book Award. While I am not debating how well written or deserving this book was of such an award, I do want to put in a disclaimer that this book deals with some pretty heavy issues that might not be entirely appropriate for all young adults. There isn’t “content” so much, as events have all taken place in the past, but I thought I should mention it since the books I review are usually void of anything potentially distressing.

As I said before, this book is quite well written. It takes place at the tail end of the 1800s, and the sense of place shines through in description of the surroundings as well as the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, which I always enjoy! In terms of plot, it snatches you up and spits you back out only when you’re done. I will say, at first I thought it was rather simple. I “saw it coming” a mile away… only what I saw coming turned out to be only half of it, and I was taken by surprise (and disgust) when all was revealed. It all goes rather quickly, and I finished the book in just a couple of sittings.

The characters were engaging as well. I loved Samuel’s quiet curiosity, the many layers of Juliana, Marianne’s fiery nature, and Charlotte’s desire to protect. The Farrow sisters and their governess had a lot of different things going on that are hinted at from the beginning and tied together seamlessly at the end.

My one complaint is the style in which this book is written. It is told from the alternating first-person perspectives of Samuel and Charlotte. It was confusing at first, because while their names are listed at the top of the page depending on whose perspective it is, when switching chapters I didn’t always glance up. It does help that their chapters were regular–that is, it was Samuel, Charlotte, Samuel, Charlotte rather than Samuel, Samuel, Charlotte… you get what I mean. It just would have been easier to differentiate if one of them had been in the third person. Having finished the book, I suppose I can see why each was in first, but at the beginning it seemed unnecessary and I wonder if there might have been a better way to accomplish the same ideas.

That said, I couldn’t put this book down, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good character-driven historical novel. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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One Response to “Book Review: Set in Stone by Linda Newbery”

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  1. 2014: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 31, 2014

    […] Set in Stone by Linda Newbery **** […]

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