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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Visionist
Rachel Urquart’s debut novel The Visionist opens in dramatic fashion, with a depiction of six young Shaker girls experiencing ‘visions’, wailing and spinning in the grip of ‘Divine inspiration’. We then meet young Polly Kimball as she flees from her brutal and violent father, escaping with her mother and younger brother as their home burns...
Published 4 months ago by Denise4891

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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Catherine Cookson goes Shaker
Whiffing of bread and dripping, clogs and shawl type tales of woe, but possibly of appeal to fans of ‘woman in peril’ sagas in the mould of Janet Macleod Trotter. Leadenly persistent characters and plot, strife shovelled on soap-style. Less The New Yorker, more Woman’s Weekly.
Published 4 months ago by ReadInBed


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Visionist, 1 Mar 2014
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Visionist (Kindle Edition)
Rachel Urquart’s debut novel The Visionist opens in dramatic fashion, with a depiction of six young Shaker girls experiencing ‘visions’, wailing and spinning in the grip of ‘Divine inspiration’. We then meet young Polly Kimball as she flees from her brutal and violent father, escaping with her mother and younger brother as their home burns to the ground and hoping to find sanctuary in a reclusive and secretive Shaker community known as the City of Hope.

Polly soon attains special status within the community as a Visionist, a sort of vessel for spiritual messages. The ensuing story is relayed through the eyes of three of the main characters – Polly herself (in the third person), and first person accounts from Simon Pryor, a fire investigator who is tasked with uncovering the truth about the blaze at the Kimball farm, and Sister Charity, a young woman adopted by the Shakers as a baby who befriends Polly and gradually uncovers her secrets.

Prior to reading this book the only awareness I had of the Shakers was the style of furniture that’s named after them and the fact that they were a religious group, something akin to the Quakers or the Amish. This book (supplemented with a bit of Googling) gave me a fascinating insight into their matriarchal society in which men and women live totally separate lives (hardly surprising then that the sect has almost died out). Aside from that there’s also an engaging storyline brimming with historical detail and intriguing characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: The Visionist (Hardcover)
Enjoyed the overall read although plot line was not exactly believable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shaker whodunnit, 19 April 2014
This review is from: The Visionist (Hardcover)
At heart The Visionist is a Shaker whodunit told by three distinct voices. Sister Charity, has grown up among the Shakers; Polly a poor girl with a violent father and Simon Pryor, fire inspector held in thrall to local bigwigs and estranged from his family. Our three heroes tell their tale set against a background of religious fervour as a wave of teenage girls living in shaker communities see visions, hence the title of the book.
Who will get the farm? Will the girls spend their lives in the City of Hope? Will Mother and daughter be reunited? Who is good and who is bad?
A well told tale with lots of detail that I didn't know about the Shaker faith, well worth a read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fiction with finesse, 5 April 2014
By 
Dr. Babus Ahmed "Ajooba Cats" (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Visionist (Kindle Edition)
Despite a slow start in the midst of much action I found this book built to a soaring crescendo at the end. The story was well written and I enjoyed it, I loved the paradox at the end and found reading about the Shaker community fascinating.

The book written from the points of view of three of the main characters alternating by chapter kept me glued and intrigued as the story developed.

I certainly would recommend this book to those who like literary fiction with a bit of finesse.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and original, 1 April 2014
By 
Amanda Jenkinson "MandyJ" (Cheltenham) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Visionist (Kindle Edition)
Set in a Massachusetts rural community in the 1840s, this is historical fiction at its best. It’s an entertaining and compelling story, with realistic characters set against a well-researched and authentic background. Polly Kimball’s father is abusive and cruel. Unable to put up with the bad treatment any longer she persuades her mother to escape with her and her little brother, and they make their way to a Shaker community which takes in the two children, whilst May Kimball leaves to fend for herself. It’s not long before Polly is discovered to be a Visionist, an important phenomenon in Shaker communities, but doubts soon arise about the authenticity of her visions and the story takes an unexpected twist. The book is narrated by Polly herself, another Shaker girl Charity, and Simon, a fire investigator, who is sent to investigate the fire that breaks out when the family escape the farm. Gradually these three narratives begin to merge.
The Shakers are rarely written about in fiction – certainly I’ve never read about them – and here Urquhart has managed to convey their way of life and beliefs in a thoroughly authentic way, with rich details about their daily lives and habits. It’s a convincing background for the blend of mystery and mysticism that Polly’s story encompasses. It’s not by any means a perfect book. The plotline involving the inheritance of the Kimball farm, with its introduction of a few stock villains, doesn’t work so well. But Polly’s experiences both within and without the Shaker community is so interesting and so compelling that I found this is a totally immersive and engaging read. Well written, deftly plotted, and with perfect pace, this is an original and enjoyable book that I can heartily recommend.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Catherine Cookson goes Shaker, 2 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Visionist (Hardcover)
Whiffing of bread and dripping, clogs and shawl type tales of woe, but possibly of appeal to fans of ‘woman in peril’ sagas in the mould of Janet Macleod Trotter. Leadenly persistent characters and plot, strife shovelled on soap-style. Less The New Yorker, more Woman’s Weekly.
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The Visionist
The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart (Hardcover - 27 Feb 2014)
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