My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Set in Stone is a big book. Astutely written with a fine eye for period detail (it’s set on the edge of the twentieth century), it’s a complex and exhausting page turner full of emotion, turmoil and psychological revelations.
Written very much in a style reminiscent of Wilkie Collins, it is the tale of Samuel Godwin, an artist on his way to accept a new position. He is to be the tutor to Juliana and Marianne, daughters of a wealthy man, Ernest Farrow, and live with the family in their fine home Fourwinds.
Fourwinds holds secrets. It’s not long until Samuel finds himself obsessed with figuring out what they may be. This journey of discovery is joined by the governess to the sisters, Charlotte, who is also resident at Fourwinds and also has secrets of her own.
This is a very big book. The scope of what it covers is huge and it reminded me a lot of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. There’s a similarly high sense of melodrama, gothic horror and psychologically devastating revelations throughout both texts.
Set In Stone is full of secrets. Dense, twisting, life-wrecking secrets and many of these are of a very adult nature. It’s complicated and occasionally hard to read if you’re not familiar with this style (I struggled at points and needed to reread a few sections in order to catch up).
Ultimately Set In Stone is one of those books that it’s very hard to tear yourself away from. You’re left with the strange, near-voyeuristic, sensation that it wasn’t just Charlotte and Samuel who grew obsessed with discovering the secrets held in this family and building, it was you as well. It’s a curious and discomforting way to finish a book and one, that I think, is a mark of its dark allure.