Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder. When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches. The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?
I struggled a little with this.
I loved the writing style, of how it used the written language of the early 1900’s. We follow two main characters, Ruth, a young seamstress incarcerated for murder, and Dorothea, a woman fascinated with the idea that our brain determines our level of misdemeanour and potential for committing serious crimes. This solidified the era of which it is set by using what is (now) unusual and barbaric methods of research.
The Corset is written as multiple perspectives and timelines but in Ruth’s perspective, she is recollecting memory. During her recollections, we learn of how her past led her to her ultimate fate.
I was entirely captured by Ruth and her unravelling of the truth and how science and the paranormal are mixed together, leading to so many questions, even after the final page.
However, I found Dorothea to be quite unlikeable. I couldn’t get past her naivety and blindness to the horrors humankind can inflict. As the book progressed, she starts to see the world in a much more realistic state but still has a mind for the trivial. Eventually, I began to skip over her chapters which made it a far more enjoyable read.
The plot twist during the novel were well crafted and left me wanting to keep reading, to find out the truth… but the book ended on another plot twist and more questions! It is a sign of a good book if there are still questions to be answered, making you think about those questions long after the last page.
Published – 20th September 2018
Publishing Company – Raven Books
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