Bitter Orange

Bitter Orange


It is the summer of 1969 and Frances has been hired to write a report on the follies in the garden of a grand country house but becomes distracted when she discovers a peephole in the floor that allows her to spy on her neighbours.

Frances is entranced by Cara and Peter and soon begins to spend all her free time with them but as she does the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong begin to fade. By the end of the summer all their lives will be changed forever.

Our Review

 I was sent a hardback copy of Bitter Orange for review from the publisher and my heart sank initially because I have been finding it hard to read anything that isn’t on my kindle as I generally have to read it one handed now because of my newborn. However, this book was so good that I managed to read it in two days, mostly when my baby was sleeping, and I should have been too.

This was not the first book I have read by Claire Fuller, I read Swimming Lessons last year and really enjoyed it.

It is the summer of 1969 and Frances has been hired to write a report on the follies contained within the grounds of a grand country house. She is determined to do the job properly at first but she quickly becomes distracted after accidently discovering a peephole in her floor that allows her to view her neighbours.

During the course of the summer, Frances becomes friends with Cara and Peter and her dedication to her work slides as she discovers the joys of alcohol and begins to spend her days going for picnics and other adventures with her new friends.

Cara and Peter encourage her to join them in committing a minor crime but by the end of the summer that one minor crime will have sparked a major one and all their lives will be changed forever.

Upon first reading Bitter Orange it is made clear to the reader that Frances is at the end of her life and that much of the book is going to be based around her memories of a time in her past specifically the summer of 1969.

“My wasting disease has taken away more than flesh: it has taken any memory of last week as well as the names and titles I was told an hour ago, but it is kind enough to leave the summer of 1969 intact.”

Frances knows she is coming to the end of her life because she is being allowed to see a vicar and he seems to want to discuss the events of that summer, to find out what really happens but Frances is determined not to make it easy for him.

The events of that summer are told in a series of flashbacks over the course of the book and I found that this introduced an element of suspense to the story. One of the first of these recollections is Frances spying on her neighbours after her accidental discovery of the peephole.

“I am kneeling on the bare boards of my attic bedroom at Lyntons, one eye pressed to the lens that sticks up from the floor.”

Before coming to Lyntons Frances had not married or had children and her life had been consumed by looking after her recently diseased mother. She had no friends prior to coming to the country house so is excited by the friendship offered by enigmatic Cara and handsome Peter.

The promise of friendship doesn’t stop her from spying on her friends and she quickly becomes obsessed with every aspect of their relationship and their past.

“I knew, of course right from wrong…payment will always be due for any wrongdoing, don’t lie or steal, don’t talk to strange men, don’t speak unless spoken to, don’t look your mother in the eye, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t expect anything from life. I knew there were rules I was supposed to live by, but it was an intellectual knowledge, a checklist to be ticked off against each new action, not inherent as it appeared to be for everyone else. There was nothing on the list for spying.”

As the summer progresses Frances’ grip on right and wrong becomes further skewed with the influence of her new friends until the novel reaches its thrilling climax.

I found Bitter Orange to be incredibly well-written and unputdownable. I think it is sure to be a hit.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

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