Customer Reviews


74 Reviews
5 star:
 (34)
4 star:
 (14)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (8)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Masterpiece
Essie Fox's beautiful writing takes the reader by the hand, leading, like the somnabulist of the title, through a dream-like journey from London to Herefordshire and back again. From the gritty urban streets of Victorian Bow to a large haunting country estate, we follow Phoebe Turner as her life begins to unravel. Each page brings new mysteries that lure us in to the...
Published on 23 May 2011 by Emma Jolly

versus
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably dreary
I wanted to like this book. It seemed to promise so much, a Gothic tale of dark secrets and mystery.

Unfortunately, it failed to live up to its promise.

I won't precis the whole story here, as other reviewers have done that. Suffice to say, 17 year old heroine lives with awful Mother and lovely Aunt, until Aunt dies, and then Things Happen...
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Lois Yorke


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Masterpiece, 23 May 2011
By 
Emma Jolly - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Hardcover)
Essie Fox's beautiful writing takes the reader by the hand, leading, like the somnabulist of the title, through a dream-like journey from London to Herefordshire and back again. From the gritty urban streets of Victorian Bow to a large haunting country estate, we follow Phoebe Turner as her life begins to unravel. Each page brings new mysteries that lure us in to the increasingly Gothic world that Essie Fox has created.
I was utterly gripped by the story, and found the book hard to put down. The contemporary details have been throughly researched, from the sights and sounds of Wilton's Music Hall to the landscape and furnishings of the large stately home. Phoebe's fear and emotions are well conveyed, as are the moral and religious sentiments of late Victorian England. Each character is fully realized, obliging sympathy even where their passions override their sanity.
The Somnambulist has all the dark moodiness and dreamy madness of a true Victorian Gothic tale, but is grounded with a 21st century wisdom towards issues like racism and mental health.
Overall, this novel takes on a classic genre to create a unique masterpiece of 21st century Gothic writing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably dreary, 29 Feb 2012
By 
Lois Yorke (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Paperback)
I wanted to like this book. It seemed to promise so much, a Gothic tale of dark secrets and mystery.

Unfortunately, it failed to live up to its promise.

I won't precis the whole story here, as other reviewers have done that. Suffice to say, 17 year old heroine lives with awful Mother and lovely Aunt, until Aunt dies, and then Things Happen.

My main gripe is that the whole thing is so dull. The characters are dreary and formulaic; Mother has to be awful and religious, Aunt has to be free spirited, heroine has to be rebellious, mystery man's wife has to be mad etc. But worse than this it was just hard work reading the book. The language was way too overdone and clunky, you were always aware that you were reading, whereas with the best books, you are so into the story that you are not aware you are sat there reading - it's just all going on in your mind. With this book, I felt too bogged down with the language and the structure and the rather weak plotting.

And the central character, Phoebe, was a miserable little Madam. Come to think of it, they were all a pretty joyless bunch!

As I say, hard work.

So much so that, half way through, I realised I didn't care about any of them and didn't care what was going to happen to any of them.

So I gave it up, which I very rarely do. In this case, I felt there were much better books out there.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely piece of Victoriana, 25 May 2011
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am so pleased that The Sonambulist caught my eye. It is a lovely piece of Victoriana, and a quite wonderful debut novel.

I fell in love with the heroine. Phoebe Turner was just seventeen years old, and she was warm bright and thoughtful. In some ways she was very mature for her years, but in others she was very innocent, and as I learned more of her background I could understand why.

Phoebe grew up, in the East End of London, with her mother and her aunt. Maud, her mother, was a member of The Hallelujah Army, set upon promoting that society's ideals and protecting her daughter from the many evils of the world. Those evils included the music hall where her sister, Phoebe's Aunt Cissy sang ...

Essie Fox paints Phoebe's world wonderfully. There is a wealth of detail that brings the streets, the homes, and most of all the music hall, to life. She clearly has so much knowledge and love, but she wears it lightly and it brings the story to life quite wonderfully.

And it was clear that there was a story to be told, and secrets to be uncovered.

Phoebe loved her aunt and her aunt's theatrical friends, and she was devastated when Cissy, suddenly, died. Maude was devastated too, at having to cope without the income that Cissy earned for the household, and she struggled. Maybe that was why she accepted an offer from Mr Samuels, a wealthy friend of Cissy's who she had always treated with disdain, for Phoebe to become the companion of his invalid wife ...

And so the story opened up. There were more wonderful pictures of another, very different, aspect of Victorian England. And there were more vivid, complex characters to meet. Phoebe knew that she would miss her home and her loved ones, but she was curious about what lay ahead. I felt just the same.

Phoebe travelled to a grand estate in Hertfordshire. Dinwood Court was a splendid gothic mansion, set in magnificent countryside, but both house and occupants were haunted by the strange death of Esther, the young daughter of the house ...

At Dinwood Court I heard the echoes of other novels of Victorian England. They were lovely to hear, and I realised that Essie Fox had wonderful influences, influences that she had acknowledged and then taken to make something new of her own.

I loved watching Phoebe as she uncovered the secrets of the past, and as she learned and grew up.

The plotting was very clever and, though I worked out some of the things that would happen, others took me by surprise. In particular, the concluding chapters took the story in a direction that I hadn't expected at all, but a direction that was completely right.

That kept the pages turning, and so did the lovely writing, the pitch perfect characters and settings, the wealth of knowledge that underpinned the story, and that very clever theme set in the title that wrapped around everything.

The Sonambulist is a wonderful debut novel, intelligent and so very readable.

I am already looking forward to whatever Essie Fox writes next.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Certainly Won't Send You To Sleep..., 28 Mar 2012
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Paperback)
`The Somnambulist' is one of those really tricky books to review as you fear you will give lots away. Like all good sensational tales there are mysteries to solve and unexpected twists and turns in store and I wouldn't want to spoil them for anyone else. Interesting then that as I started to read the tale of Phoebe Turner I guessed what was coming about fifty pages in.

At this point I briefly considered stopping, so many books to read and all that, but the writing and characters kept me going and I am so glad they did because the author has many more unexpected twists and turns in the narrative along with murky mysteries and spooky gothic moments to come which wrong foot the reader. Or do they? As with this book you sometimes think (or hope) another twist is coming and occasionally they don't or sometimes they do and keep on twisting. I am aware I am being rather cloak and dagger but with books like this you have to be.

Phoebe Turner is a young woman growing up in Victorian London's East End. She is a girl living with two very polar influences over her life in the forms of her mother Maud and her Aunt Cissy. Her mother is god fearing and restrictive, her Aunt is former stage star who makes occasional appearances at Wilton's Music Hall and Phoebe finds herself being ruled by one and yet tantalised by the other. Things change in Phoebe's life , though what of course I am not going to say, and she soon finds herself living in the sparse countryside of Hereford at Dinwood Court, where she becomes a companion for Mrs Samuels, a rather mysterious woman who has become somewhat of a recluse. Here in the old country house strange things begin to happen, some very creepy, and there are mysteries lying in wait which might have more to do with Phoebe than she could ever believe.

My initial criticism, and one which I actually thought might mean I left the book unfinished, was as I mentioned the feeling I knew what was coming. Yes there were some twists I didn't see coming but the main one I predicted from the start. I should mention here that I was in the very lucky position of interviewing Essie Fox on the latest episode of The Readers podcast and having talked to her I discovered she wanted you to know more while Phoebe didn't so you had the feeling of watching something awful coming from the sidelines, and then being surprised further. Obviously I read the book before that and so didn't have that knowledge at the time, so what was it that made me read on?

I hate to use the cliché of `page turner' because some people seem to think this is a dirty word (why I am not sure, the point of a book is surely that you want to turn the pages and read on) but `The Somnambulist' is definitely such a book. I read the first 120 odd pages, which makes up the first of the books three parts, in one evening simply seeing if this might all be leading the way I thought it would. I found myself really enjoying the company of the main characters, though Phoebe does remain somewhat of a mystery throughout, and the supporting cast of characters such as Old Riley who is Cissy's right hand woman and becomes a marvellous fraudulent spiritualist medium (I find spiritualism, especially in the late 1800's fascinating) and Mr Peter Faulkner who is wonderfully lecherous and stole any scene on any page he turned up on. Oh, how could I forget Mrs Samuels' butler, Stephens, who came across most Danver-esque.

`The Somnambulist' was simply a pleasure to read all in all. I enjoyed getting drawn into it and the fact that I knew what was coming gave me a rather comfortable feeling weirdly. It was a perfect read for several very cold windy nights; I felt a certain safety with it despite the books overall darkness. Yes things surprised me too, which was an added bonus, but there was a familiar side to the book which I found immensely readable along with a bunch of characters I wanted to spend my evenings with. It's a rather promising start to Essie Fox's writing career and from what I have heard I will be enjoying her darker more twisted second novel when it comes out in the autumn. Mermaid's, madness and brothels in the Victorian era, oh yes please.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly accomplished, beautifully written first novel, 24 May 2011
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Hardcover)
The theme of sleepwalking is deftly applied in the literal and figurative sense throughout The Somnambulist by Essie Fox. This is an intelligent, cleverly plotted novel that cannot be defined simply as a Victorian Gothic ghost story; it's much more than that. In many ways most of the main characters are sleepwalking through life, seeing only what they want to see in order to survive. It's only as the past comes back to haunt each one of them that they begin to awake to the truth and the impact of the lies they have lived with. This is a wonderful first novel that explores issues of class, religious bigotry, love, betrayal and the power of forgiveness.

Phoebe Turner is a young girl who has led a protected life, but she's quick of thought and wit. She has a blend of innocence and knowledge that can lead her into awkward situations that are sometimes comical and at other times a painful lesson in the ways of the world. Her mother, Maud is a member of The Hallelujah Army and her mission in life is to keep Phoebe away from sin. This proves to be a challenge as Phoebe's Aunt Cissy, who lives with them, sings in Wilton's Music Hall. When Cissy suddenly dies the past comes back to haunt them and Phoebe goes on a journey to unlock the dark secrets of her family's past...

Extracts of the story of Acis and Galatea from Handel's operetta beat time with the heart of this novel. They are played out across selected chapter headings, as a subtle guide to the story that's about to unfold. But be careful who you select for the role of Polyphemus, as there's more than one character who may suffer from an unrequited love `that's as bitter as gall.'

Victorian London is vividly brought to life with evocative descriptions of sights, sounds and smells. Not all of them are pleasant; hems are soaked in mud and reeking of the squalor they've been dragged through, and windows of carriages are raised to shut out the stench on the streets. In contrast, when the story moves to Dinwood Court in Herefordshire, the gardens of the house are an `idyll of peace and perfection, an oasis, an Eden, a heaven on earth.'

The plot twists and curls around the imagination like the fog that drifts like a ghost through the streets of London, revealing snatches of illumination in the dark like lamplight in a street, but nothing is as it seems in this world of dreams and illusion. An astonishingly accomplished, beautifully written first novel that deserves to be read in one sitting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Somnambulist, 16 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Kindle Edition)
The Somnambulist, is set in Victorian London and is the story of a seventeen year old girl, Phoebe Turner. She lives in the east end, with her strict, religious mother, Maud. And her glamorous Aunt Cissy. Cissy had once been a singing star on stage. One night Cissy makes a come back, at Wilton's Music Hall. She takes along Phoebe, against Maud's wishes. There Phoebe sees a stranger, Nathaniel Samuels. And so the tale begins. And what a tale, I loved this dark, Gothic treasure of a book. All the characters were so well written. The places, from Bow in the East End, to the countryside of Hereford and from the London docks to Wilton's Music Hall. Were all described in such rich detail. This book has so much going on in it. There are secrets, lies, hard subjects like incense, murder and anti semitism in London of that period. And it is so beautifully written, I remembered to make a note, should have made more but I was so taken up by the story, this is a really lovely passage, it goes.
I saw she was dressed in white, with small beads of pearls stitched high at her throat
and her hair, very fair, was streaked lightly with grey which glinted like silver when
caught by the light.
That is just a little piece of a fantastic book, which will stay with me for a long time. I can't wait for Essie Fox's next book.
When I was younger, I used to buy books from the description on the back cover, most people do. A lot of the time I'd buy, say an adventure story about pirates, with a great description that would capture my imagination. Only to be disappointed because the book did not live up to it's promise. Well Essie's writing in The Somnambulist, is stunning. You can feel the atmosphere in all the places and as I have said, all in such rich detail. I've not even mentioned the painting or the music, which influenced the story. The painting The Somnambulist is by Millais and the music is Acis and Galatea by Handel. Every time I was away from this book, I couldn't wait to get back. Every break or delay I had at work, I just had to pick up my kindle and read as much as I could. Fantastic!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All the ingredients with none of the gothic spark!, 31 Jan 2012
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Paperback)
I'm a big fan both of Victoriana and Gothic novels so I was really looking forward to reading `The Somnambulist.' The story is fairly familiar; a young and innocent girl ends up living away from her stifling mother as the companion of a frail and wealthy wife of a businessman. So far so good and all the archetypal characters are present and correct; a mother who has been in mourning for many years, a haughty and wealthy heir to the family fortune, a mysterious butler.

Whilst I found the book quite enjoyable, I couldn't help comparing it to those it had obviously been influenced by: Jane Eye; Wuthering Heights; The Castle of Otranto; Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Mysteries of Udolpho and so on and sadly it just doesn't compare. I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that there were quite a lot of incongruities both in language and behaviour and whereas the great Gothic novels hint at what is happening (and therefore create suspense and horror because of the detail that is left to the imagination) The Somnambulist practically bangs you over the head with explicit and unpleasant detail.

This will pass a few hours and was enjoyable enough but I've seen it done better by other modern authors, such as Michael Faber, or I would go back and rediscover your Gothic classics!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ups and downs, 9 Oct 2011
By 
Nicola "nicola_in_southyorks" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book covers the story of Phoebe Turner, a young woman who lives with her puritanical mother, and her glamorous singer aunt, Cissy. To say much more would give away key facts about the story, but it's basically about Phoebe finding out who she really is.

This is quite a classic style Victorian gothic novel, with the ubiquitous seances that seem to pop up in every Victorian story, together with music halls, a painting by a Pre-Raphaelite, and a good dose of melodrama.

I felt it got off to a slow start, but picked up again and then dipped to the point where I was quite bored by it and wanted it to end. It's a book of ups and downs for me, as I enjoyed some parts and not others. I don't think it's a particularly strong story really, and it maybe lacked something because it was all in the first person, so lost a bit of the emotion.

It wasn't a total disaster for me, hence the three stars, but certainly not a book I would rave about.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very spellbinding..., 30 May 2011
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was looking forward to reading The Somnambulist because I'm partial to a bit of Victorian gothic however I was little disappointed.

Seventeen year old Phoebe Turner lives with her fanatically religious and frankly deeply unpleasant mother Maud and her beautiful Aunt Cissy in London's East End. Aunt Cissy is a music hall star with dark secrets in her past. When Cissy dies unexpectedly and Phoebe and her mother are left without means of support Phoebe goes to Herefordshire to act as a ladies companion to Mrs Samuels, the wife of Cissy's old flame, Nathaniel Samuels. In Herefordshire Phoebe encounters more dark secrets and lies.

The story promises mystery, madness and murder so I was geared up for some Victorian sensation however the story turned out to be slow going with very little interest. The secrets are quite transparent and much of Cissy's dark past is obvious from the beginning. I didn't really feel that involved with any of the characters and the gothic atmosphere I expected was sadly lacking. I didn't get a feel for the music hall scenes in London and I didn't get the gothic suspense I would expect from a ghostly Victorian country house story.

It seems a shame because this was a story which could have been much better if it wasn't so formulaic. It seems that the author wanted to cram the story full of everything Victorian, from the bustling London streets, to the music halls, to a dark gothic country mansion but failed to explore any of them to their full potential.

Overall it's a fair first novel but it wasn't as good as I was expecting or as good as I was hoping.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Victorian melodrama, 1 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Somnambulist (Kindle Edition)
If you liked the Night Circus, you'll enjoy this. Well written and imaginative. Only quibble is with a particular plot twist that doesn't quite work for me regarding the character's motivation for their behaviour. Shan't spoil it by revealing it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Somnambulist
The Somnambulist by Essie Fox (Paperback - 5 Jan 2012)
5.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews