Friday, April 5, 2013

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

5 Star

In modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.

In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I had no idea what to expect on starting Bristol House and was happily engrossed after a few chapters in a fascinating novel of historical intrigue.  It tied into things I’ve been interested in for years- The Knights Templar, anything Tudor and religious history and as far as I could tell, the story was balanced on a great base of historical accuracies and accepted truths.

Swerling has interwoven a present and a past storyline to meet in a vortex of another plane- I think I was a bit lost for a while with the ghostly monk visiting Annie and wasn’t really sure what to make of his presence.  It was eerie and creepy and though I have to say I’m not so much a believer in ghosts as such- this monk was definitely as real to me as he could be.  His purpose is absolutely essential to the plot.

Annie herself was a bit dry - I didn’t get a very good feel for her and seeking acceptance as an academic because of her past as an alcoholic didn’t bring me much more warmth.  She was just a bit one-dimensional but I accept that it was important for this to be her history so that she is the perfect person to do the research.  I relied on Geoff and his mother Maggie to bring warmth to the book when it was lacking elsewhere. They were larger than life and quite a fascinating pair- as were the various rabbis involved.

Swerling has written a novel full of points of interest and I’m still trying to absorb all the information she managed to cram into it- saying that though, Bristol House was well written and fast paced and not at all slowed down by the details. 

Thank you to NAL for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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