Saturday 19 March 2016

Review! - The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters LovricTitle: The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters

Author: Michelle Lovric

Genre: Historical Fiction

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I've read two Michelle Lovric books before - The Book of Human Skin (UK - US) and Carnevale (UK - US.) (To read my review of Carnevale, click here.)

Lovric's books are usually pretty damned entrancing and thought-provoking. So I decided to try this one too.

Also, the blurb said that it was about girls with uber-long hair. I have some uber-long hair myself (though not as long as theirs!) and wanted to see where this was going.

This is a relatively long review - because I clearly had a lot to say about this book. :)


Manticory Swiney (I know, that's a fab name!) is one of seven sisters - herself, Darcy, Oona, Enda, Berenice, Pertilly, and Idolatry (known as Ida,) - living in poverty in the rural Irish village of Harristown.
Their way out seems clear to the ambitious Darcy - they have only one thing going for them: their exceptionally long and thick hair.
And so the Swiney sisters become a stage-show. And learn the terrible price of fame and fortune.

Best bits:

As ever, the high point to any Michelle Lovric book is the louche and sinuous prose - it's rich, it's beautiful, it carries you along with the sensuousness and the decadence of it all.

This book has a real gothic vibe to it - and I love me some gothickyness! (Yes, I invented a word - shush.)

Between nineteenth century Ireland, and Lovric's beloved Venice (I have yet to find a Lovric book without Venice in some capacity,) my gothic-thirst was well and truly sated.

I also loved the way that 'modern' topics - celebrity, journalism, commercialism - are handled in a nineteenth century setting. It's fascinating.

And, of course, the hair.

I can vouch for the fact that sometimes people think of you as somehow being public property when you have long hair.

This can be sweet (like the little old lady behind me at the bank who just had to touch my rain-speckled hair because it was 'like diamonds,') or down-right creepy (for example, the middle-aged guy who stood behind me at a concert, and every so often gave the strands of my hair a sharp little tug, then acted innocent whenever I turned around to glare at him.)

And of course, there are plenty of people in between who think it's ok to twirl it around their fingers and paw at it in random places. Sometimes it is ok. Like, if I've ever actually met you before. Or if you ask, not just grab.

Lovric definitely captures the creepy - though not so much of the sweet.

Instead, the girls' hair seems a burden, weighing them down both literally and metaphorically throughout the book - which fits in with all the gothic stuff anyway I suppose.

Manticory is a really sympathetic and relatable narrator/character - and she's a bit bookish, which I always like to see.

A quick word about Darcy - she's just brilliantly psychopathic, and I love the way she provides such a manipulative influence on all the girls' lives, which they find themselves unable to break because of the ties of blood and family.

Not so great bits:

This book might be distressing to some people (I say this a lot - is it just me? Is my taste in reading particularly warped or something?)

There's some gore, violence, and a bit of general warped disturbing-ness.

There is some sex, as well as some sexual assault on a child early on (which luckily isn't written overly-disturbingly, but obviously is still pretty unpleasant to read.)

It's also not a quick read - it's not that it drags, it doesn't - but, somehow, I just didn't get through it that quickly. Maybe it's the style or the fact that there's so much going on.


This was a great book with a gothic-atmosphere and a lot going on. I really enjoyed it, but it's not the quickest read - more of a marathon than a sprint. But worth it.

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  1. Whoa! You definitely had a lot to say about this book but I just loved how detailed the review is. I am so intrigued by the idea of these modern day topics being discussed and handled in the setting that it is. Oh, and speaking of setting, it seems as if it is really beautiful in this book!

    1. I'm glad you loved the detail instead of being completely bored out of your skull by my ramblings ;) And Lovric always writes Venice in particular in a way that shows just how much she loves it - it's like another character in all of her books!


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