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The House of Velvet and Glass

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  6,173 Ratings  ·  1,064 Reviews
Katherine Howe, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, returns with an entrancing historical novel set in Boston in 1915, where a young woman stands on the cusp of a new century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball.

Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the T
Hardcover, 418 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Voice/Hyperion (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jul 15, 2012 Sherrie rated it it was ok
Quite possibly one of the most boring books I have ever read. The premise of the book was interesting, family still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones on the sinking of the Titanic. There is so much more depth that could have been added to this story but instead it was just pages of descriptions that added nothing to the story. I wanted to abandon this book but stuck it out to the end.
Erika Robuck
Jun 11, 2012 Erika Robuck rated it it was amazing
“The girl was alone, but the windows reflected a dozen different angles of the back of her head and tops of her shoulders, as if she were guarded by an army of versions of herself, each one slightly different from the last.” Katherine Howe, THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS

THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS, by Katherine Howe, was published in April and is 432 pages. The publisher, Hyperion/Voice, sent me an advanced reading edition of the book. I loved Howe’s last novel, THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE
Jill Furedy
Aug 05, 2012 Jill Furedy rated it liked it
Looking at the separate pieces of this story, I feel like I should have liked it better. But everything that had potential is either over or under explained to the point where it's hard to care. The author either bores me with too much info, or just leave it hanging but somehow without any sense of suspense. I read a long way into the book before I realized there wasn't any one thing driving the plot and o I found it hard to care...are we looking for a developing romance (for Sibylline, for Eula ...more
Apr 20, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
Every now and again a novel comes along that has the power to bewitch and captivate, and The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is just such a novel. Set in 1915 Boston, Sibyl Allston seems destined to be an old maid confined to managing her father’s home and living a careful life where little changes. Still reeling from the loss of her mother and her younger sister on the Titanic, Sibyl dutifully continues to meet with a medium in an attempt to contact her lost loved ones. Her father, ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Diana rated it it was ok
I am deeply confused by all of the four and five star ratings. This book dragged on and I only finished because I was sure it had to get better. The descriptions were repetitive (if the author described Sybil's eyes as "obsidian" one more time I was tempted to write her and ask if her thesaurus broke). I don't need to be explicitly told things in a book but there were certain gray areas where I think the author forgot we as the readers are not in her head. I also think she threw in a lot of what ...more
Kathleen Lenihan
Aug 26, 2013 Kathleen Lenihan rated it it was ok
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was one of my favorite books the year it came it out. The plot was fast paced and original, and the characters so interesting and fleshed out. When I saw that the author had a second book coming out, I was excited and purchased it as soon as I saw it at the bookstore.

Unfortunately, I did not find The House of Velvet and Glass nearly as gripping as Howe's first book. The story didn't really take off for me until at least 1/3 of the way through, and the charac
May 01, 2012 Connie rated it it was amazing
This book was superb. I stayed up all night to finish it; I was so riveted by the story that I could not even consider sleep. While one of the themes in this book is the sinking of the Titanic (there are many out now due to the 100th anniversary), there were many more equally important themes including: Spiritualism, World War I, Addiction issues with opium and morphine; Women's rights, Philosphies of life and death, the Progressive era, Family dynamics, the Shipping trade, and even old-fashione ...more
Rachel Hyman
Apr 30, 2012 Rachel Hyman rated it it was amazing
The House of Velvet and Glass began slowly, in a time of mourning. I was struck by the quiet, empty house, the attention to keen details - this sense of being transported existed through the whole book, like the first few chapters built the time period before the figures themselves were struck alive.

The stories woven through the book were beautiful, and the weaving gave a pleasant rocking, like balancing on a boat in calm waters. There were love sagas that crossed class and age; violent stories
Jun 11, 2012 kari rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
I feel badly giving any book only one star, but I actively dislike this book so there you go.
This was a slow, slogging along read, very repetitious with little action and too many people thinking about what something reminds them of which goes on and on. No one can just see someone smile without thinking of when someone else smiled about something and then the conversation that took place around the smile and those remeniscneces would go on for several pages before the story would start up again
Feb 01, 2013 Gwen rated it it was ok
Preferably I would give this novel one and a half stars. The premise, (young woman recovering from the loss of her mother and sister on the Titanic and trying to learn why her younger brother was expelled from Harvard in his senior year) while interesting, was far too ambitious and poorly executed by this author.

I just finished this last night and already find myself struggling to remember the heroine's name. The character development was nonexistent and the plot device of switching between 1915
Feb 01, 2013 thewanderingjew rated it really liked it
The story begins in 1912, and then proceeds, in detail, for a period of about five years. Several times, it employs the use of interludes to move back in time, almost five decades, to 1868, to introduce the reader to Harlan Allston’s 17 year old incarnation, and foreshadows the things to come. The book improves as you read on, so don’t give up if it seems a bit slow in the beginning with the tedium of Boston propriety.
The Alston’s, a well to do family, live on Beacon Street, at a time when socia
Nov 09, 2012 Tara rated it it was ok
I have to say I was not as impressed with this book as I was with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I had high hopes, but I found this story kind of fell flat. The romance too a bit took too long to even simmer.
Personally, I thought she took on too many story lines and so none of the story lines were very strong. What I loved about the other book I read by this author was the way I wanted to know what really happened and there was a sense that all was not like it seemed. This book promised
Apr 10, 2012 Felice rated it did not like it
The House of Velvet and Glass is the second novel by Katherine Howe. Her first was The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Did you like that one? If so stop reading now. You will like Howe’s new novel as well. If you didn’t like it you can stop reading soon.

Howe’s new novel, The House of Velvet and Glass is every bit as suspense-less, flat and over wrought as Howe’s first novel. This time Howe sets her story in 1915 Boston. She tosses together the Titanic, WWI, spiritualism, romance, opium and SEC
Tantalizing glimpses of the unusual, the extraordinary hinted at, but all snatched away; coming to nothing. Ultimately, it's just a series of stories about the life of a family in early 1900's Boston. The characters are well drawn but the the story is so unsatisfying that in the end it doesn't matter.
Howe can write and her book The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is well worth reading and is all that this book is not.
Jun 29, 2014 Melodie rated it it was amazing
Katherine Howe has a talent for historical fiction. Add to that her ability to interweave the history, mystical pull and danger of the occult, and you have a hit.Her meticulous research and natural eye for detail makes her work a treat for the reader willing to spend the time getting to know not only the characters, but the time and space they occupy. Her stories can be daunting as they draw the reader ever so slowly into the plot. Her characters are complex and flawed.Shades of gray in behavio ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Heather rated it liked it
I'm not feeling eloquent enough to give this novel the proper review it deserves. I liked it very much, in some ways more than I expected and in other ways less. I loved the historical setting (both pre-WWI well-to-do Boston and the flashback interludes to the Titanic & the exotic, disorienting back-alleys of 1868 Shanghai) and the detailed writing that made it come to life. I've always been fascinated with the spiritualist movement and early attempts by scientists, psychologists & socio ...more
Mar 04, 2012 Becky rated it it was amazing
an upper class look at the early 20th century
I really enjoyed this book. After a slow start and getting used to the jumps in place and time, I found House of Velvet and Glass to be a compelling look at the early 20th century. A book group would find the drug use (opium), the early psychology/sociology instances, the expectations for men and women, dress and table manners, and the social class divide/discrimination would all make good topics for discussion. I found the characters believable and t
Apr 11, 2012 Marlene rated it really liked it
Originally published at

The House of Velvet and Glass is Katherine Howe's second novel, after her fantastic breakout debut, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Both stories have a certain magic in them.

While Dane's story was about the practice of witchcraft, Sybil Allison, the character who provides our entree into The House of Velvet and Glass, is interested in spiritualism. Sybil's usually practical nature has found refuge in the search for contact wit
Apr 19, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
What is it like to revisit a death, the life of the passed one, to relive and remember, whether through dreams or through glass, the images and voice of the other? From the beginning to the end of The House of Velvet and Glass, we are recalling, like in a Poe tale or Le Sang de Morphée, the life of the one(s) passed. Culturally and individually, the ship of the Titanic was indestructible. What is left has not been destroyed but reconstituted through memory. Chapter one opens on April 15, 2015, i ...more
Oct 09, 2012 Karen rated it liked it
This is another good book by Ms. Howe. It is formulated much like her first one, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, in that she moves among time periods effortlessly. In Deliverance, I found myself wanting to stay in the past more than the future, but this one was smoother in its transitions and I found each of them a story unto itself.

We follow the Allston family, Lan, the father, Helen, the mother, and the three children, Sybil, Eulah, and Harlan. We first meet Helen and Eulah on the ill-fa
I read Howe's first book last year, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The beginning of The House of Velvet and Glass started off a bit slow but as Howe started adding more characters, I quickly became engrossed. The story centers around Sybil, a 28-year-old woman who society has written off as a spinster, living in Boston in 1915. Her mother and sister died on a voyage back from Europe on the Titanic where her mother had taken her younger sister (who had come out ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: hist-fic, paranormal
1915, Boston. Helen Allston and her daughter, Eulah, perished on the Titanic, and three years later, the patrician Allstons are still in mourning. Eldest daughter Sibyl (aptly named) continues to frequent seances, looking for a message from her mother that might give her some peace. Sibyl is a spinster at age 27, taking over her mother's job of running the family home on Beacon Hill. When her younger brother, Harley, is thrown out of Harvard for unsavory behavior, Sibyl's former beau, now a prof ...more
RoseMary Achey
Apr 28, 2012 RoseMary Achey rated it liked it
Sybil’s mother and sister were among the Titanic victims. Living with her father, an old sea merchant, and her wayward brother, Harlan, Sybil attempts to grieve and keep the remaining family together in a Beacon street Boston Townhouse.

Each of the family members deals with the grief in a very different manner. Harlan was recently expelled from Harvard and is found betting away his fortunes at the card table in the company of Dovie, an actress from the West, scandalous! The Captain turns inward,
There's something about a tale that waves between times which captures my attention. I like the multilayered approach and enjoy how the stories usually intertwine. In this book, Howe takes the reader from a baseline of 1915, back in time to events that shaped the lives of the Allston family of Boston, both in the opium dens of Shanghi and Titanic's ill-fated voyage. It managed to cover many topics of the time: spiritualism, women's rights, social taboos and expectations, courtship, opium and mor ...more
I really enjoyed this book. It was well paced and had an intriguing plot that made you want to continue reading to the end. In some places it was not what I expected, but having read this book I now understand the title and the way that it was constructed like it is. This is more than a story about coping with tragedy and moving on with your life, it is about the way grief affects different people in different ways, it is about a search for answers and finding the unexpected.

This book is well wo
Okay, I just need to stop reading books about Spiritualism. They never work out, and I honestly dislike the topic. Plus, the book takes way too long to get anywhere, and Howe is very fond of hyperdetailed, overwritten descriptions. With flashbacks and multiple perspectives, this is a book that takes too long greeting readers on the front porch before finally inviting them inside. The element of the paranormal (when it managed to squeeze in through the rest of the plot) was silly and presented ve ...more
Apr 27, 2012 Anita rated it it was amazing
I loved Katherine Howe's first book and I loved this one just as much. Howe takes you into a completely different world and her writing is so rich, her characters so real, you don't want to leave. This was a great story. I can't wait for her next one.
I remember reading and liking THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE even though it was a bit heavy-handed. THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS follows in that same style, requiring a great deal of patience for those not used to reading these more character-driven books. You get an exceedingly rich and developed world and characters but the plot here is rather short. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the book does have a way of drawing you in.

Sybil is effectively a spinster who basically missed
Ricki Treleaven
Mar 09, 2013 Ricki Treleaven rated it it was amazing
This week I read Katherine Howe's The House of Velvet and Glass. Howe also wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I almost dreaded reading The House of Velvet and Glass because I loved her first book so much, but I wasn't disappointed at all. I highly recommend both of these books, and I'm certain the The House of Velvet and Glass will make my Top Books of 2012 list.

Sibyl Allston is a late twenty-something Boston socialite in 1915. She is still grieving th
Apr 10, 2012 Debbie rated it it was amazing
What’s left of the Allston family of Boston’s Back Bay is still reeling from the loss of Matriarch Helen and youngest child Eulah who had the misfortune of being on the Titanic. Each remaining member is dealing with the loss and going about life in their own way. Sybil, the oldest has taken over running the house and furthering her spinster lifestyle, but it’s in the séance parlor of Miss Dee where she finds the most solace and closest to her lost family as she deals with the guilt she can’t see ...more
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Katherine Howe is the author of THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, was named one of USA Today's top ten books of 2009, and which has been translated into over twenty languages. Her second novel, THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS, was a USA Today and New York Times e-book bestseller, and her third novel, a young adult historical thriller cal ...more
More about Katherine Howe...

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“Only by being present can you be happy. Too much attention to the past and the future takes the now away. And once it's gone, you never get it back.” 3 likes
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