greentapestry : Reading Matters ~ 'House Of Glass'

Saturday 12 January 2019

Reading Matters ~ 'House Of Glass'

'And on a February morning , I stepped down from the bus in a place called Kew. This was a name that I knew. For here, there were famous gardens, with rhododendron walks and glasses and pagodas. I'd read of them in books.

I entered through the gates of Kew Gardens on the twelfth day of February  ......  and Kew was grey, desolate. It grass was cropped by wintering geese; its lake had thickened with ice so that I asked myself, what is this? Why is this known, or written of? It seemed no different to other parks.

I decided to go home. But as I turned, I saw it: an extraordinary domed building of glass. A temple, or palace. I entered it and left February behind. For the Palm House at Kew contained canopies and ferns and damp wooden benches; palm leaves brushed my hair as I passed. Vines twisted on metalwork; condensation pooled on beams and, having pooled, dripped on my shoulders and the back of my hands. A droplet hung so perfectly at the tip of a leaf that I stood by it, waiting. Small handwritten signs announced such words as Indochina and frangipani.

Kew Gardens, October 2018

Now I wanted to be nowhere else. I was done with crowds and London's streets. Here was a new beginning. The betelnut's feathery leaves. The soursop and the kalabash tree. I'd move forwards to read their names. I'd wonder too, how these plants might have looked in their homeland - if jewel-coloured birds had flown up to their branches, if they had offered shelter in rains that came without warning. And I began to write down what I liked of each plant ; its brief rare flowerings, or how, in its motherland, bats would sip from it. Their Latin names : crescentia cujete. Fiscus benghalensis.'

- an extract from 'House of Glass' by Susan Fletcher.

Sunshine has been in short supply so far this January - we've had a run of almost uninterrupted mild, murky and grey days. I've been escaping into my own house of glass for a regular fix of snowdrops as well as reading seed catalogues and books. My first read of the year was Susan Fletcher's House of Glass' which certainly soon had me gripped. I was drawn in by the introductory blurb on the dust jacket :

'June 1914 and a young woman - Clara Waterfield - is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn - and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper and maids seem afraid. And soon, Clara understands their fear: for something - or someone - is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook's dark interior - and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing - not even the men who claim they wish to help her - is quite what it seems.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.' 
My first ever visit to Kew Gardens was made last October - it rained heavily throughout, but like Clara I was transported to other far away lands and warmer climes. A fabulous place. Where have you been taken to by your most recent read?


  1. Darker than I expected in London's theatreland with Sarah Waters and Tipping the Velvet.

    1. Oh I must look that one up Diana. I have got her 'The Little Stranger' waiting in the to be read pile :)

  2. Miserable here too and blowing a gale today. We still haven't made it to Kew.

    1. It's been a similar day here too Sue - not only very windy all day but also rather wet too this afternoon. A snuggling in sort of day. I do hope that you get to Kew sooner than later. I was also fortunate enough to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden a fortnight later which is a destination I'm sure that you would enjoy. Lots of weird and wonderful crops :)


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