At my last book club meeting someone mentioned this one and I was intrigued. I have read other novels by Ian Reid; The End of Longing and The Mind’s Own Place. This one is my favourite. Isn’t the cover lovely?
Here’s the blurb …
The Madwoman’s Coat, Ian Reid’s fifth historical novel, is set In England and Western Australia during the late 19th century. It is a story of love and grief, artistry and insanity, acts of sudden transgression and moments of quiet contemplation.
1897: Isabella Trent is found murdered in an Australian asylum cell. Why did she die? Who is the killer? What is the meaning of the ornate motifs that Isabella has secretly embroidered on a man’s frock coat?
Years earlier, young Lucy Malpass leaves her home town in Staffordshire for London, where she is drawn into a community of artists and socialists around William Morris and his family. Before long there is not only a prospect of fulfilling work but also a glimpse of reciprocal passion. Then her high hopes gradually begin to unravel.
There seems to be a link between Lucy and Isabella, related somehow to an old Icelandic tale. But what exactly is this link, and what can it explain about their closely held secrets?
I particularly enjoyed all of the mentions of the Morrises (William and May) and all of the textile bits. In fact, when the murder was finally solved, I didn’t really care who had done it. For me, the best parts were the sections set in England.