The Savage Instinct
by Marjorie DeLuca
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Pub Date 18 May 2021 | Archive Date 01 May 2021
Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, this taut psychological thriller offers a delicious take on deviant and defiant Victorian women in a time when marriage itself was its own prison.
England, 1873. Clara Blackstone has just been released after one year in a private asylum for the insane. Clara has two goals: to reunite with her husband, Henry, and to never—ever—return to the asylum. As she enters Durham, Clara finds her carriage surrounded by a mob gathered to witness the imprisonment of Mary Ann Cotton—England’s first female serial killer—accused of poisoning nearly twenty people, including her husbands and children.
Clara soon finds the oppressive confinement of her marriage no less terrifying than the white-tiled walls of Hoxton. And as she grows increasingly suspicious of Henry’s intentions, her fascination with Cotton grows. Soon, Cotton is not just a notorious figure from the headlines, but an unlikely confidante, mentor—and perhaps accomplice—in Clara’s struggle to protect her money, her freedom and her life.
"Highly recommend this compelling story set in the 1800s about a young woman as she navigates suffocating societal expectations, the torments of the human mind, and a growing fascination with England's first female serial killer." — Jacqui Castle, award-winning author of The Seclusion
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 157 members
Awesome book. If I didn't have to parent I would have locked myself away to read this one. I felt so strongly for Clara, the main character and what she dealt with. The treatment of patients in mental institutions back in the late 1800s...wow....just heartbreaking. And her husband...gahhh....drove me crazy. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about Mary Ann Cotton, definitely went and researched her after to learn more.
If you love to read books about the late 1800s, especially about women and how they were treated if they dared to show any type of emotion that was deemed more extreme...then please read this one.
Thanks Netgalley for this one, what a great read!
The Savage Instinct is a tense peek into abusive relationships and the myth of female hysteria. Anyone who enjoys Victorian murderesses and madness should find something to enjoy in this novel, written in the vein of Sarah Waters, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Margaret Atwood, Laura Purcell, and Hannah Kent.
Young Clara Blackstone stumbles back into English society from a temporary asylum sentence. Deemed hysterical after a traumatic miscarriage, her husband forces her into confinement. Upon her release and arrival at her new home in Durham, she finds herself drawn to a local prisoner, the infamous Mary Ann Cotton, said to have poisoned scores of husbands, lovers, and even her own children. Clara finds her new domestic life suffocating, with her husband particularly suspicious and patronizing. Seeking solace from the claustrophobic confines of her new household, she visits Mary Ann at the women’s prison. The two women share an instant connection, and an unspeakable bond begins to form between them.
4/5: Great work of high/late Victorian historical fiction with a thrilling Gothic and almost feminist kick. Fans of novels like Fingersmith and Alias Grace should enjoy Marjorie DeLuca’s take on deviant, dangerous, and defiant Victorian women.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.