Many moons ago (er, last fall)... I signed up for the always fun annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) Challenge. The selected book for the readalong was The Quick by Lauren Owen and since I typically am amazing at signing up for challenges, but horrible in completing them, I surprised myself when I started the book and then COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I did succeed in my usual pattern, however, by inadvertently forgetting to post a final review about it, so my apologies to the wonderful Estella Society. I will do much better this year! (I've gotten into a bad habit of not posting as frequently as I used to because of the events in this post; but Thank God, I am all good now.)
I chose to participate in this group read because of one important detail that was included in the intro. "For fans of The Historian and The Night Circus." Yep, I was in. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian will always be one of my favorite books, and I've read it twice in the past ten years, even hosting a group readalong at On the Ledge Readalongs. The Historian was such a visual experience, incorporating overseas locations and unique meals with an unnamed narrator, that it launched my own interest in researching and posting pictures relevant to the pages our group read together. That was a ride of an adventure that I am always looking to replicate with another story.
Since it's been a few months since I read it, I'm opting to go with the below Goodreads synopsis so I don't miss out on anything, or give away too much.
London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
While The Quick was much more action-packed than The Historian, the setting and the atmosphere, was equally intense, creating an eerie and contemplative feel that I so appreciate in Victorian/Gothic tales. I loved it. The characters and overall quest fit snugly into the category of Victorian horror and Owen's debut creatively demonstrates the challenge of combining present events with the epistolary genre of letters and diary entries into a distinctly peculiar and thoughtful story of unexpected love, loyalty, and of course, vampires. This was an absolutely fantastic story. The key to it are the characters, who fit a range of the unexpected and curiously hopeful, banded together for the ultimate goal. This is a wonderful story filled with secrets and turns, and one that is perfect for you to put on the list of creepy tales to keep close on cold winter nights. I'm eagerly awaiting the next work from Lauren Owen.
Just as a side note: The Quick was also ranked as one of the best books of the year by Slate.
Here's the original button that The Estella Society created. My apologies to them again that I didn't participate like I intended! But, I did read the book, loved it and will try much harder for the next RIP Challenge!
About the Author (from Goodreads)
Lauren Owen studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in Durham, England.
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