April 2024
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Review: The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps and The Courage Consort by Michel Faber

These two novellas are bound in one volume for me.  The summaries are short because the stories are; I don’t want spoilers!

In The Hundred and Ninety-nine Steps, Sian is working on an archaeology dig at Whitby Abbey, working to bury her dark dreams even as she exposes history to the light.  By accident one day she meets a man with a charming dog who gives her a bottle.  Inside is a century-old manuscript with the link to a hidden murder.

I really enjoyed this novella, but I have to admit that I think the cover sold it as a little more exciting than it actually was.  I wouldn’t call it a thriller – more a woman’s discovery about herself and about the world after it had brutally betrayed her.  There is some mystery too, but I wasn’t precisely on the edge of my seat waiting to find the truth.  That’s not a bad thing – I was fine with it the way it was.  The book is also something of a love story – but whether it’s between Sian and Mack, the man she meets, or between her and the dog Hadrian (who could not love a dog named Hadrian?) is a choice left up to the reader!  I loved the descriptions of the archaeology and I wanted to be there digging in Whitby Abbey; Michel Faber is a fantastic writer.

The Courage Consort is about a group of singers, through the eyes of Kate Consort, and their week in a remote European retreat.  Away from everyone else, they attempt to learn a new and revolutionary piece of music, but what they learn instead is about their relationships with each other.

Even though this one takes a less prominent place on the cover of the book, I loved it and it was by far my favorite of the two.  Kate was just such an interesting heroine.  Similarly to Sian, she goes on a journey of self-discovery, from paranoia and depression to a surprising peace with herself and the world.  She steps out from her husband’s shadow and I really love reading about women who discover their own independence, when it’s okay to rely on someone and when it’s not.

And as anyone reading my blog should know by now, I love stories based around relationships and that’s exactly what this was.  The characters all really came to life for me and their interactions felt real and true.  There isn’t much of an actual plot, but everything does come to something of a conclusion at the end and a surprising one at that.  I can’t say much more than that, but it was really great and I was totally caught up in these people’s lives.

Both of these novellas come highly recommended by me, but if you choose one, choose The Courage Consort.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.


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