The Glass House by Beatrice Colin

The good people at Flatiron Books offered me a copy of Beatrice Colin’s new novel: The Glass House. I absolutely loved this historical fiction novel, centering on two very different sisters-in-law: Antonia and Cicely.

Cicely has come to Scotland with her young daughter in order to wrap up her father-in-law’s estate. Sent from India by her botanist husband, who is trekking around in search of plants, she lands outside of her comfort zone in her husband’s family and the Scottish society and culture of the time (early 1900’s). Cicely is a strong woman and is not about to let anything or anyone stop her from gaining what she needs to make a good life for her daughter. Meanwhile, daughter of the house, Antonia, assumed the estate would be hers. She has sacrificed just about all her earthly wants and desires, hopes and dreams, to care for her father and the manor, and she’s not ready to give it all up. The glass house is the greenhouse on the estate, where delicate seedlings take root; but even seemingly hardy plants can wither and die if not cared for.

Here’s the overview from the publisher:


Beatrice Colin’s The Glass House is a gorgeously transporting novel filled with turn-of-the-century detail and lush blooms, about two women from vastly different worlds

Scotland, 1912. Antonia McCulloch’s life hasn’t gone the way she planned. She and her husband, Malcolm, have drifted apart; her burgeoning art career came to nothing; and when she looks in the mirror, she sees disappointment. But at least she will always have Balmarra, her family’s grand Scottish estate, and its exquisite glass house, filled with exotic plants that can take her far away.

When her estranged brother’s wife, Cicely Pick, arrives unannounced, with her young daughter and enough trunks to last the summer, Antonia is instantly suspicious. What besides an inheritance dispute could have brought her glamorous sister-in-law all the way from India? Still, Cicely introduces excitement and intrigue into Antonia’s life, and, as they get to know one another, Antonia realizes that Cicely has her own burdens to bear. Slowly, a fragile friendship grows between them. But when the secrets each are keeping become too explosive to conceal, the truth threatens their uneasy balance and the course of their entire lives.

If you love a solid historical fiction piece, with strong female protagonists, this is a great choice! Beautifully written, Colin’s writing vividly portrays the Scottish countryside and people of another era.

So many choices in this book that affect others in their outcomes; this book really makes you stop and think how your actions can affect others.

I read that the author has passed away from cancer in 2019, which is heart-breaking. She was only 55. It is nice that her stories live on.

Thank you so much for sharing this novel with me through Net Galley!

Review: THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert

I received THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS to review through Net Galley. I had liked Gilbert’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE but I heard this novel was very different. I just loved this story which follows the life of Alma Whittaker, a highly intelligent, gifted botanist of Dutch descent, living in Philadelphia in the 1800’s.

This lengthy novel (over 500 pages) starts with young, industrious Henry Whittaker, who travels with Captain Cook and becomes a well-known and respected (and very wealthy) expert on botany. He marries an intelligent Dutch woman and together they make their home on an estate in Philadelphia and have a daughter, Alma. Alma is incredibly precocious and socially awkward but endearing. Throughout the book she is quick to point out her flaws and her shortcomings, but her intelligence and perseverance shines through. Alma is unlucky in love and is devastated by her short-lived and ill-fated marriage to a young and gifted artist. Alma travels to Tahiti to find out more about her husband’s death, and this journey of discovery takes up a large portion of the last third of her book.

I really enjoyed Ms. Gilbert’s writing. I know little about botany and was rather surprised that I found Alma’s intense and in-depth study of mosses actually rather interesting! I loved Alma’s intense scientific studies and her passion for Darwin’s theories (along with her own brilliant suppositions). The excitement of scientific inquiry and discovery from that time period (mid 1800’s) shines throughout this story. There are some sexual passages in this book, but I did not find them excessive or overly graphic. Rather, they made Alma seem more human to me.

Thanks, Net Galley and Viking for my copy!