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The Lace Reader Hardcover – 2 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; UK First Edition; 1st printing. edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007287089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007287086
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,236,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An unusual and beguiling literary thriller about a fascinating family of women. The setting of the tight-knit Salem community, still haunted by a heritage of witchcraft and persecution, is marvellously evoked. Enchanting, whimsical and menacing by turns and with a brightly drawn oddball cast it's an exhilarating and ultimately uplifting read.' Rachel Hore, 'The Memory Garden'

'A gorgeously written literary novel that's also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping … a major feat' Chicago Tribune

'Gripping … a marvellously bizarre cast of characters (living and dead) in a uniquely colorful town' Washington Post

'[A] richly imagined saga of passion, suspense and magic' Time

'Blithe and creepy in equal measure. [Barry] captures [Salem] evocatively and often wittily. What is real in "The Lace Reader"? What is not? … There are clues planted everywhere …' New York Times

'A spine-tingler … "The Lace Reader" is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club' People

‘“The Lace Reader” is a terrific paranormal police procedural. The story line is fast-paced and Brunonia Barry provides an enjoyable mystery in which relativity is not an exact science. “The Lace Reader” is a winner.’ Harriet Klausner, The Mystery Gazette

‘“The Lace Reader” is that rare thing – a literary page-turner, worthy for its story and for its art.’ Tom Jenks, Narrative Magazine

‘A captivating debut. Barry excels at capturing the feel of small town life, and balances action with close looks at the characters' inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through.’ Publishers Weekly Starred Review – A book of outstanding quality.

Book Description

Drawn by family. Driven by fear. Haunted by fate.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brunonia Barry's first adult novel, "The Lace Reader", is a generally well-paced and beguiling tale, set in a somewhat fictional version of the author's home town of Salem, Massachusetts. Barry's intimate knowledge of the town and its history has enabled her to blend historical events and the town's present day tourist trappings with a potent fictional element, creating an authoritative-seeming exposition of divination through lace-reading, attitudes to witchcraft, religious cults, traumatic loss, familial abuse, tea-rooms, lobster fishing and many other quotidian aspects of life in small town New England.

The book is, in fact, a quirky mix of many things but it is probably best described as a modern-day Gothic novel; a psychological supernatural thriller cum romance cum mystery tale that is both gripping and enthralling almost throughout. It contains some highly original ideas and is, by and large, exceptionally well executed. There are, however, some things that do not run altogether perfectly. The most glaring misjudgement to my mind are the sudden, unexpected and confusing shifts in the narrative point of view, jumping from a first person perspective in the first half of the book into a detached third-person view point and then back and forth between the two. As a device to shift the perspective (and therefore the interpretation of events) this can often be effective in psychological thrillers, especially as the final denouement approaches. Here no such shift occurs and I for one was left wondering quite why the author had chosen to do things this way. Rather than bring a differing view into focus, the change largely seems only to disturb the flow and makes the book feel to be rambling a little.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Elliott TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On the first page of `The Lace Reader' the principal character defines her family as `quirky' - and that is a defining description of the book itself. It is a complex and tragic story set in an alluring location (Salem) with bizarre characters (including witches) and all is not what it first appears to be. Some readers may dislike the American vocabulary and reliance on first person singular for much of Brunonia Barry's book, but this is more than offset by the author's skilful use of language to combine images and emotions and to seduce readers into imaginative interpretation. The plot is surreal and those priding themselves on being able to predict the outcome of a story will be challenged and have their credulity stretched by the dreamlike (and sometimes nightmarish) nature of `The Lace Reader'.

The puzzling paranormal theme is strengthened by haunting flashbacks to the past and by fearful glimpses to the future, and readers will find themselves transported to an illusionary world where reality is suspended. Without giving anything away to spoil the storyline, for review purposes it is sufficient to list some of the issues involved: mind reading, foretelling the future, mental breakdown, suicide, prejudice and hysteria, love and loyalty, family relationships, religion, witchcraft, violence and abuse, and more. Interwoven within these are dichotomies: life and death, happiness and sadness, truth and deception, victims and bullies, peace and trauma, and more. None of this is trivial; everything is integral, and with only a few minor loose-ends `The Lace Reader' converges to a satisfying conclusion. Read the book - be beguiled and bewitched.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
To me Salem will always mean witches so I was interested to see this book is set in Salem. Towner returns against her will to Salem where she grew up. Her beloved Great Aunt Eva has disappeared. Towner - christened Sophya - is herself recovering from major surgery and hardly fit to travel. This is the opening of a fascinating and at times horrifying story. From the start it is unclear what is real, what imagined and what took place but not perhaps exactly how it is reported.

Salem at every turn reminds Towner of childhood events and people. There is what remains of her family on Yellow Dog Island just off the coast of Salem. There are modern day witches in Salem for the tourists but there is also a frightening religious sect - the Calvinists, led by Cal a terrifying figure from Towner's childhood - opposing anything to do with witchcraft. Standing above all the factions is law officer Rafferty. Sometimes it seems he is the only person who sees events clearly and part of the story is seen from his point of view.

The story is many layered and complex and I certainly couldn't foresee the horrific ending. Throughout the book there is the theme of reading the future through looking at patterns in lace. Towner tries to deny her gift but in the end she must come to terms with it. Towner herself tells the story and there are times when I felt I was inside her head and seeing things from her perspective - however warped it was.

It is well written and gripping and I feel it probably deserved 4.5 stars except it was so difficult at times to follow what was happening and I found myself backtracking more than once to try and work out what was going on. If you want something a little bit spooky with a very different setting - give this a try.
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