Originally published: 2nd August 2018
Author: Claire Fuller
Published by: Fig Tree
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page count: 280
Reading dates: 6-10 August 2018
Star Rating: 5/5
When we meet Frances Jellico, she is dying. Her mind is going and as the vicar sits with her, seeming to want some of confession, her mind drifts back to the summer of 1969. Frances is staying in the attic of a dilapidated country house and is tasked with writing a report about the architecture for the owner. Staying in the main body of the house are Peter (who is tasked on reporting about the house contents) and Cara his wife. They live a very hedonistic lifestyle and one evening invite Frances to dinner. Frances hasn’t much life experience. Being in her late 30s, this is the first time she has been alone, after caring for her mother who died not long before she got the job at the house. She arrives to dinner massively overdressed and gets so drunk she is sick.
Despite this, Cara and Peter seem to like her and she soon finds herself firmly ensconced in their lives, eating the Italian meals Cara cooks, drinking the wine they find in the cellar and smoking cigarettes. Cara confides in Frances about her life but as the summer rolls on in becomes clear that things are not right between Peter and Cara. The stories Cara tells don’t add up and as Frances becomes entangled in their lives, the boundaries between right and wrong, truth and lies begin to blur and tragedy strikes.
Bitter Orange is a dark and menacingly twisty atmospheric story. The characters are believable and I could picture them clearly. Themes include loneliness and obsession and the writing is sublime. I wish I knew more about how to critique literature as I don’t feel I can do this novel justice. This novel has been compared by Emma Healey to Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle both of which I’d like to read now. I can’t wait to see what Fuller does next!
Thank you to Jane Gentle and Penguin Random House for sending me an advance readers copy, all the way back in April – sorry it took me so long to read it!
About the author:
Claire Fuller is a novelist and short fiction writer. She studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art, specialising in wood and stone carving and began writing fiction at the age of 40, after many years working as a co-director of a marketing agency.
Other novels include Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons.
She lives in Winchester, England with her husband and has two grown-up children.