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The book The House of Closed Doors, by Jane Steen, tells the story of Nell Lillington and her quest for independence. Nell is only 17 years old and lives with her mother and stepfather in a small town near Chicago circa 1870. Nelly’s experience taught her the lack of autonomy a married woman suffers and her skill with the needle gives her the idea of a plan of escape: staying single and independent – which an unexpected pregnancy threatens. This is the outset of a deeply interesting story of personal growth and of the pursuit of one’s own female identity, particularly at a time when women hardly had any space for themselves. Nell’s opposition to marriage is a choice, a desire to be able to choose her own ways and not to be in bondage, and this makes her very relatable. But, at the same time, she is very young, innocent and protected from the world, so she will make mistakes, and she will discover that marriage is not the only kind of bondage she has to face in her search for independence. It is the story of a very naïve person starting to build her character, choosing links that are important to her and trying to get rid of those that are imposed, with all the difficulties the time and the environment imposed on her.
When I first read the summary of The House of Closed Doors, some time back, I got the very wrong idea that story would be a sort of gothic tale about the terrors visited on a pregnant girl took away in a hospice and her struggle to survive. Nothing like that. When I saw that Nell's story would be told in a trilogy I revised my initial idea (learning how the story would somehow progress) and decided to listen to the book as a historical fiction with some mystery, which is much closer to the truth. Even the mystery, in my opinion, takes second place in relation to Nell’s personal story and the historical reconstruction of the time, which is quite nice. In the end, I was very pleased to listen this book and I am anxious to know how it will continue, since the characters’ stories are indeed captivating.
I was given a copy of the audio book in exchange for an honest review and I would recommend it to everyone who likes historical fiction. Jane Steen’s prose is really good and the narration is outstanding with an excellent range of voice and tone, improving the listener experience.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I wanted to like Nell for her independent thoughts and non-traditional gender roles. That part of the book description is probably what convinced me to buy the book. However, the very unlikeliness of her home life, her step-father's erratic behavior, her mother's acceptance of the poor house, the improbable nature of that establishment, the lack of all female friends her own age...it was just too much for me.
This was more of a cozy mystery, which is not my style. Had that been more clear, I would not have purchased the book. And, for me, the book lost an entire star when she refused to trade a bottle of whiskey for a solution to the mystery. Seriously?!? What a ridiculous plot device.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful