London, 1799, Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young man seeking acceptance into the Society of Antiquaries. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore her parents’ shop to its former glory, and to escape her uncle.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has ever known about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.
A beautiful book, inside and out, set in Georgian London our protagonist, Dora lives with her uncle in what was her parents’ antiquity emporium. Dependent on her uncle and somewhat stuck, Dora has aspirations to be a jewellery designer. Inspired by a large Greek vase which arrives at the store, Dora’s designs finally get noticed. But the vase is mysterious, her uncle secretive and Dora suspects illegal activities, but amongst all of this is the rumour that the vase could be cursed!
A fantastic story centred around this vase with links to the famous Greek myth, Pandora’s Jar. This book explores lots of themes, for Dora as a woman of her time, poverty and wealth, gender issues in Georgian times and love and sexuality. The story was gripping and the writing atmospheric. Without spoilers there were aspects of the story that were palpable, particularly relating to smells and served to place me at the scene… a somewhat unpleasant scene no less!
I particularly enjoyed the focus of the jar which interwove with the mythology of Pandora, I am a huge fan of Greek Mythology so this was a fantastic aspect of the story. Uncle Hezekiah was a terrific character, a real rogue, sinister and menacing, he really made my skin crawl, I felt concerned for Dora as the story progressed.
Now, it’s no secret that I love historical fiction, but I do need to be in the mood for it, arguably this beautiful proof copy sat on my shelf for far too long. That said I am in the enviable position to receive more books than I can read in time for publication, however with the paperback coming in early January this could be one to add your 2023 wishlist!
A lot is packed into this book and I would suggest it ticks all the boxes, crime, history, romance, mythology, the list goes on! It has received a lot of hype over the year and honestly, I haven’t seen a bad review. Deserving of the attention, this is a great read that comes recommended by me!
Happy reading and thanks as always for reading and sharing this post.
About the Author
Susan Stokes – Chapman was born in 1985 and grew up in the historic Georgian city of Lichfield of Staffordshire. She studied for four years at Aberystwyth University, graduating with a BA in Education & English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel, Pandora, was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction prize 2020 as well as longlisted for the Bath Novel Award that same year.