The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9780733643255.
(Age: Adult - Adolescent) Highly recommended. Riveting, haunting, enigmatic and gloriously evocative of the past world of England, this narrative is fascinating and gripping. Kayte Nunn has created three stories that interlock in theme and subject matter over time. A young Australian woman, Thea Rust, has travelled to England to teach in a modern English boarding school that has recently admitted girls to the school for the first time, and we see how the adjustment to this new world is significantly challenging. The school has its roots in a dark past and Thea Rust is determined to create a world for the students that is appropriate in terms of preparing the young people for the future, in a supportive and challenging way.
A second narrative focuses on the area in London, in 1768, where the silk trade was an important facet of England's economy, and again, Nunn has created a female character who challenges the world of fabric design. Choosing a vibrant and dangerous flower as a feature, her design is seen to both thrill and, potentially, to disturb that world. Set in the same year, the third narrative is focused on the notion of herbs as valuable in healing human illnesses. Both of these older worlds present an element of danger and we are caught up in the rather thrilling darkness of this time.
The beautiful artistic depiction of aspects of the novel on the cover of this book subtly catch our eyes but, more importantly, they expose elements of all three stories. This is a powerful novel, rich in detail, time and place, entertaining in story and captivating in the mystery that Nunn creates. It would be suitable for adolescent and adult readers.