I finished reading Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. These are my thoughts based on my reading.
From the inside of the book
Victorian London comes to life in this spellbinding mystery as an intrepid female sleuth wades through a murky world of collectors and criminals to recover a remarkable child.
Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.
Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.
Blending darkness and light, Things in Jars is a mesmerizing novel that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.
Themes: Snails. The deep sea. Pikes. Supernatural. Darkness. Psychological
Takes place in Victorian London. September 1863. Oddities and collectors were rampant around this time.
Unique main character. Our main character is a fiery red-headed woman named Bridie Devine who specializes in domestic investigations and ‘minor surgeries’. Bridie is known to work with the police at times to help solve bizarre and inexplicable deaths. Irish. Strong temper. Sharp. Sarcastic. Confident in her craft and herself. Skeptic and suspicious. Bridie was an absolute delight. At the beginning, I kept reading her name as ‘birdie’ until it finally stuck.
Crude, dark and grotesque. This book is not a delicate read. You will find sentences such as “But for now, the slums are as they have always been: as warm and lively as a blanket full of lice.” and “Just beyond you’ll detect the unwashed crotch of the overworked prostitute and the Christian sweat of the charwoman… “ There are also very disturbing depictions (later on) and grim fairytales told by the old nurse to the stolen child. However, the fact that it was so crude and descriptive helped me visualize the scenes perfectly.
Appropriate switching from past to present. From time to time the story will move toward Bridie’s childhood (past) and to the perpetrators on their journey with the kidnapped child (present) as well as back to Bridie’s current investigation.
Humor. I can not tell you how many times the author chooses to emphasize the ugliness of Bridie’s bonnet. “ …It is dusk and her bonnet has the air of a demonic presence perching midflight.” I was laughing when I finished reading that part.
Support characters with their own backstory. From the ghostly, tattooed seafarer Ruby Doyles to the seven-foot (London giantess) maid Cora Butter, no details are spared in behalf of their backstory. The characters were fleshed out and filled with personality.
Enigmatic Antagonists. The characters in things in jars are irredeemable but from the nurse with a bad limp to the surgeon’s son— each villain has their own charm and charisma paired with a heart full of rot.
Tragic romance. An impossible romance. The longing and yearning is conveyed beautiful between the two.
The ending, while not predictable, didn’t entirely have the wowing factor I was hoping for and therefore, if I have to rate this book based on stars, I’d give it a 4.5 which is still a very high rating.
+ The title is an excellent fit and mentioned in page 69 which I found was a nice touch.
+ Unique writing style.
+ Cover – Very eye catching. Muted colors.
+ Reading: Font was appropriately sized and spaced. There was no need to squint.
+ Typography chosen matched perfectly.
+ Illustrations: Only a snail to open each chapter but it was a nice touch.
+ Page break to demonstrate the date change, the switch from past to present.
Author: Jess Kidd
Title: Things in Jars
Publisher: Atria Books (Imprint of Simon & Schustster)
Things in Jars was my Book of the Month pick for January. It was a great read and I flew through this novel. It had a pleasant twist I was not expecting and despite choosing this book on a whim, I have no regrets.
Thank you for reading,
Let me know if this book is in your TBR or if you already read it.