Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Genre: Fiction | Historical | Mystery | Thriller

Pages: 281

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From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them — Cara first: dark and beautiful, clinging to a marble fountain of Cupid, and Peter, an Apollo. It is 1969 and they are spending the summer in the rooms below hers while Frances writes a report on the follies in the garden for the absent American owner. But she is distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she discovers a peephole which gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.
But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.

I delved into this book without having the faintest idea of what it could be about. To me, the synopsis was a bit unclear, like anything could happen, and so in a way I was intrigued. I had absolutely no expectations.

The story is told from the point of view of Frances, a 39 year old lady who seems a bit of a recluse. I could see a lot of myself in Frances. A woman who has spent much of her life alone, doesn’t really know how to connect with people she’s just met, and seems to find any kind of social situation awkward. In contrast though, once she has opened up, it seems as though she becomes easily attached to others. This I can relate to as a person who does not have many friends. You kind of try to hold on to any sign of kindness or affection you can get. Frances is such an odd character, but I couldn’t help loving her.

The characters of Carla and Peter always made me feel a little suspicious and uneasy. Carla especially. Though she was made to sound like a beautiful, radiant woman, she had absolutely no soul and a strange obsession with death and drowning. Frances, maybe not so beautiful, had a heart of gold. Despite the way Carla treated her, she would always do anything to make her happy.

The Lynton house in which the trio were staying, although dilapidated, sounded beautiful. Particularly the surrounding gardens in the heat of summer. However, Part way through the book, the Lynton house went from being a place of tranquillity, to a place that gave me a sense of foreboding.

In places, this book was downright creepy. Especially when reading it in pitch black at night! It made me wonder, were these things really happening, or was it all in Frances’ head?

I love books that, when you get to a certain part,make your jaw drop. This book certainly did that to me when I realised just where the elderly Frances was telling her story from.

I hadn’t realised I’d read a book by Claire Fuller previously. I’ll be looking out for more of her work. I rated this book 4 hearts.