I saw a lot of enthusiasm about this book last year but I waited until the paperback was published this year. My feelings about it are mixed but I admired Claire Fuller’s writing style. Maybe I had expected too much and would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen so much praise beforehand.
The story follows a strange and somewhat naive woman called Frances Jellico. Dying of a wasting illness and encouraged to make her confessions, she has flashbacks to the summer of 1969. Employed by a rich American to survey the architecture of a decaying English country house he has bought, Frances becomes obsessed with the couple who are temporarily living there. Peter and Cara are beautiful hedonistic people who seem to have a complex relationship full of secrets. They warmly invite her to spend time with them. However, it’s clear that Frances did something terrible and the story is slowly inching towards the reveal.
I loved the atmospheric descriptions of the old house and its surroundings. I’m fascinated by things like that. The language is interesting and the flashback style is engaging. Unfortunately I found the plot rather slow and the characters were irritating. I didn’t care about them. The last chapter of the book seemed unnecessary. The endorsements on the cover mentioned Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, who I agree have similar styles and themes. If you like these authors, it’s worth trying Bitter Orange.