Update: Now that I’m (tentatively she said) back to blogging, I want to start with a blog update. For anyone who is still interested in participating in the 2018 Attitude of Gratitude (#BloggersUnite #AttitudeofGratitude), I’ve extended it until January 31st at 11:59pm. One would think I’d learn by now; it takes a while for this to catch on. There have been so many lovely additions, so many wonderful bloggers adding their gratitude posts in the last week, that it only makes sense to make it last longer. I’ve loved reading every one of them, and have been especially tickled (yes, tickled) by the number of new to me bloggers I’ve met. Just wonderful! So I’m extending the deadline, in the hopes that others will join us; there can’t be too much gratitude! So, if you’re interested, or no someone who is, please check out the details here. You can also find all of the other entries at the end of my post. If you join and link back to my piece, I will add your name as well. Join us! (If you can’t tell, all those link backs are meant to lead you back to my post)
And now, drum roll please…. the enormously talented author and writer, Claire Fuller:
I first got to know Claire Fuller through an online flash fiction group that we both participate in, Friday Fictioneers. It’s open to anyone who wants to create a story form the weekly photo prompt, and brings folks from all over the world together. For nearly two years I never missed a week. Then for another year my submissions were less consistently, and now it’s been a year or so since I’ve contributed… I’m getting ready to change that. Writers like Claire, Amy* (who introduced me to FF), Rochelle, Sandra, CE, Dale, Russell, Louise, Lish, Loré, Bjorn* –– and so many other wonderful writers–– became my online friends and writing community. Each week they provided encouragement and feedback for my stories, and some of us got to know each other a little better via messenger and the comments we left on one another’s stories. *Some of these people I’ve met in person, as I’ve travelled. That is always icing on the cake! I haven’t met Claire in person, but I feel like we know each other, and it’s been a joyful experience to watch her journey from aspiring to now successful published author.
From the start I was drawn to the magic Claire wove in 100 words–– creating beautiful scenes, dialogue and story arcs in so few words. When her first book, Our Endless Numbered Days, was published, I anticipated a wonderful story and I was not disappointed; it’s spectacular! Her second book, Swimming Lessons, proved that she was a writer with stories to tell, and not a one hit wonder. Her newest book, Bitter Orange establishes Fuller as a writer who will be remembered.
In Bitter Orange, Claire Fuller’s writing is atmospheric, sharp and compelling. It reads like an English classic, with modern edge and intelligence. The mood is dreamy and mysterious, but holds the reader tight, as dying Frances Jellico reflects back on a few weeks in the summer of 1969, when her life was changed forever. After her mother’s death, Frances accepts a job in a dilapidated country estate in England, researching and reporting on the condition of a bridge on the property–– her area of knowledge. Frances dreams of finding fame in the discovery of a Palladian bridge; she dreams of connection and normalcy. From the start, it’s unclear whether any of these things are possible.
Staying in the rooms below her sparse attic room is a mysterious, provocative couple, Cara–– fragile and unpredictable, and Peter–– attractive, aloof and an expert on architecture. He is there to catalogue the estate. Frances discovers a spy hole in the floor of her bathroom and is drawn into the volatile and mysterious life of this seductive couple. Their stories intersect and Frances finds herself increasingly drawn into a world she’s never experienced, having lived a sheltered existence as her mother’s caretaker for ten years. Her world and that of Peter and Cara’s could not be more different.
The town’s vicar, Victor, sits beside Frances as her life fades, trying to uncover facts from this shocking summer. He draws out her story slowly, seeking the truth of the events that rocked his world as well. Just as Victor sits on the edge of his seat each day, eliciting more and more of Frances’ story, Fuller’s vivid and beautiful storytelling propels the reader deeper into her strange world.
It’s a story that slowly twists and turns, keeping the reader riveted, while seducing them with languid pacing. I found myself sure of things, only to realize I’d gone down the wrong path, just as Frances does. This book reminded me of Sophie’s Choice in the narration, with thriller elements of Girl On The Train (without any of the cliché), and a magical feel reminiscent of The Little Princess. A strange mix of references, but Fuller’s writing is that special.
I could not put this book down, and finished it in less than 2 days… reading every chance I got. If you are looking for a book that pulls you in, holds you close, and leaves you replaying scenes for weeks, Bitter Orange is a must read. Claire Fuller is a master story teller. She had me at 100 words, but oh what she can do with 323 pages!
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