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La sonnambula

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  1,134 ratings  ·  186 reviews
Quando, nella Londra di fine Ottocento, la diciassettenne Phoebe Turner aveva accettato la proposta dell'eccentrico Nathaniel Samuels e, dalla capitale inglese, si era trasferita a Dinwood Court, pensava che tutto si sarebbe risolto in una nuova esperienza; lavorare come dama di compagnia per Lydia, la moglie del signor Samuels, una donna fragile e malata di nervi. Ma c'è...more
Hardcover, 1, 382 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Castelvecchi (first published May 26th 2011)
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As a fan of Victorian gothic, I knew I'd want to read The Somnambulist the moment I heard about it. Aside from the great title and gorgeous cover, the plot sounded appealingly twisted and involving in a Sarah Waters kind of way (which, I'm pretty sure, is the effect the author was going for). The protagonist, and the narrator for much of the story, is Phoebe Turner, a seventeen-year-old girl who idolises her glamorous aunt Cissy, a singer and actress. Her mother, Maud, couldn't be more of a cont...more
I am so pleased that The Sonambulist caught my eye. It is a lovely piece of Victoriana, and a quite wonderful debut novel.

I fell in love with the heroine. Phoebe Turner was just seventeen years old, and she was warm bright and thoughtful. In some ways she was very mature for her years, but in others she was very innocent, and as I learned more of her background I could understand why.

Phoebe grew up, in the East End of London, with her mother and her aunt. Maud, her mother, was a member of The Ha...more
Loved it! It took a while to get going but when it did it didn't hold back! A brilliantly woven story of family secrets, betrayal and forbidden love with characters that leapt off the page. I found them completely real and believable as well which can sometimes be hit and miss with a new author trying too hard to impress. Thankfully this isn't the case for Essie Fox in this her first novel and she will definitely be someone to watch out for. Puts me in mind of Sarah Waters or Shirley Jackson for...more
Deborah Swift

I was excited to hear about the Virtual Victorian's new novel The Somnambulist, and when it popped up as a selection for Amazon Vine I could not resist.

And what a gem it is. Bravo to Essie Fox, it is a long time since I have enjoyed a debut novel so much. It is literate, engaging and atmospheric. What's more, it has a plot that kept me turning the pages, and just when I thought I had discovered all the secrets of the book, there was one more twist in the tale.

Phoebe's journey to uncover her past...more
The book revolves around Phoebe Turner, a 17 year old girl living in the London East End in the Victorian era with her bible bashing mother Maud and her 'delightful' Aunt Cissy. The first chapters of the book build a picture of the dysfunctional family dynamic, and love/hate relationship between Phoebe’s mother and aunt. Maud thinks that anything fun or joyful is a sin. She is also a bit of a hypocrite with a penchant for the devils juice. Aunt Cissy is an actress/ singer who is oh so delicate a...more
Sue Uden
It is a little while since I finished it, but I loved everything about The Somnambulist. As the elaborately attractive design on the cover suggests, it gives an intricate insight into life in the East End of Victorian London. And there I met Phoebe Turner and her controlling, Hallelujah Army flag waving mother, Maud, and her ever fun-loving actress sister, Phoebe's Aunt Cissy. I can remember having to ignore a lot of the other mundane stuff going on around me, as each new mystery unfolded and un...more
I waited 48 hours after finishing this book to write this because I wanted to be sure that I would not change my mind, and I didn't. I don't normally review books that I do not care for because it just seems a not very nice thing to do. After all, someone put a lot of time and effort in to create something I assume they are proud to present for my enjoyment. Really and truly though, I thought this was just awful. I have read some of the other glowing reviews and am beginning to wonder if maybe I...more
I picked this up while traveling so I would have something to read on the train; it sounded intriguing and easy to read, and when the shop girl at the bookstore recommended it, I decided to buy it even though I hadn't heard of it before. I found this book hard to finish. The characters were two-dimensional and mostly annoying, particularly the protagonist, Phoebe, who was naive and helpless to a point that made me despise her. There were 'plot twists' that could be sussed out from the first chap...more
Lorraine RushHourReads
I absolutely hated this book. The dialogue is plodding, the storyline flows badly and the characterisation is terrible. I struggled to understand the responses of the characters to events around them. The lead charachter, Phoebe, is an annoying, passive girl who seems completely oblivious to the obvious twist and seems bizarrely unaffected by all the terrible things that seem to regularly happen to her. It's just...annoying! I'm afraid that once the storyline became too soap opera, I realised I...more
Essie Fox is a cruel and evil woman. Honestly, her debut novel is so stunning she deprived me of sleep last night. I must have told myself ‘just one more chapter’ at least ten times, to absolutely no avail. It was possibly almost *cough* 4 am by the time I was finally able to put this book down. And I was so hooked that I woke up this morning, made myself a drink and dove straight back in. So I retract my earlier comment, Fox isn’t cruel and evil she is actually incredibly talented.

The story fo...more
La sonnambula di Essie Fox è uno dei romanzi pubblicati nel 2011 che più mi ha incuriosito, attratto e, una volta letto, stregato.

Le motivazioni che mi hanno spinto verso questo libro sono molteplici: innanzitutto l’ambientazione scelta dall’autrice per la sua storia, l’Inghilterra vittoriana e l’ambiente dei music hall hanno un fascino misterioso e sempre unico; altro aspetto attraente è la presenza, già dal titolo, del dipinto di Millais raffigurante la ormai celebre sonnambula durante le sue...more
Even though I really disliked Elijah's Mermaid, mainly due to the utter ridiculousness of its plot, I was still amenable to trying The Somnambulist. It's Essie Fox's first novel and I've had the sample sitting on my Kindle since the book was first published; it's only because I came across it in the library that I've now read it.

It is not good. The best I can say is that it's not actively terrible apart from one particular aspect, of which more later. It certainly manages to avoid EM's error of...more
Don't bother. It only gets worse.
Mary Aris
Feb 17, 2012 Mary Aris rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: The TV Book Club
In her debut novel, The Somnambulist, author Essie Fox writes a gothic tale about seventeen year-old Phoebe Turner living with a puritanical mother, Maude, whose prude ideas and values motivates her to go about East London engaging in activism, vowing to shut down theatres. Phoebe’s Aunt Cissy, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Phoebe’s mother - an actress and singer performing at Wilton’s Musical Hall. Aunt Cissy takes Phoebe to Wilton’s Musical Hall often and introduces her to man...more
Ooh, ooh, I really want Ms Fox's marketing team. That way I'd become Supernurse Extraordinaire: celebrities would discuss me on television, my research papers would get little Specsavers-sponsored stickers on the front and get their own wee display in the library, and people would flock to my blog on catheterisation (um, OK, maybe not the last one). Ahh, the life I would lead...

Because really, when it boils down to it, this isn't a very good book. Meticulously researched, certainly, but the exec...more
In Phoebe Turner’s Victorian home hangs a painting. The Somnambulist. It reminds her of her dear Aunt Cissy, a music hall beauty who she wishes were her mother. Instead, Maud is a strict Christian, pounding the streets with the Hallelujah Army and severely disapproving of Cissy’s sinful life as a singer. When Phoebe glimpses the world inside Wilton’s Music Hall one night, she also draws the attention of men who will change her life forever. Soon her family home is at risk and she must move to th...more
Ant Harrison
The Somnabulist by Essie Fox is another take on the increasingly popular Victorian gothic melodrama. It concerns Phoebe, the daughter of Maud Turner, who lives with her mother and aunt in the east end of London in the 1880s. The backdrop is Victorian music halls and spiritualism, with the usual (very heavy) dose of family secrets, strange happenings, mysterious characters and misplaced lusts.
Fox has written a real potboiler, I guess trying to emulate the melodramas of Collins and Dickens; convo...more
'Every heart holds a secret'
'Some secrets are better left buried...'
- front & back cover tag lines.

In principle the synopsis for this novel does sound very much the epitome of Victorian Gothic: an innocent girl arrives at a secluded stately home staffed with unwelcoming servants, there is a neurotic mistress of the house still mourning an untimely death, a dash of spiritualism, a ghostly presence, dark and menacing woods and lots of secrets. Yet somehow these ingredients just didn't add up...more
Rivisitazione del romanzo gotico, La sonnambula racconta la storia, pieno di melodramma e colpi di scena, di Phoebe Turner, una ragazzina che vive nell'East End londinese (periodo vittoriano, ovviamente) con la madre e la zia Cissy, sorelle amorevoli nonostante l'enorme differenza tra i loro caratteri e la loro scelta di vita: la madre di Phoebe è una donna profondamente religiosa, molto severa e anche abbastanza bigotta, mentre Cissy è una cantante di varietà ed esercita chiaramente un grande f...more
I stopped reading this about a quarter of the way through. I suspect the problem I had was that I imagine books in a very different way to the author. I think this is the case because I became aware of very precise visual descriptions when I was reading the book. In fact, they began to annoy me a bit. This makes me suspect that Essie Fox imagines books mainly visually and so was giving lots of visual cues to help her readers experience the story. However, I mainly imagine what it would feel like...more
Lovely and haunting, much like the Millais painting for which it was named — and the cover design, for that matter. Essie Fox has a real gift for both characterization and scene-setting. Her major players are all complex and vividly crafted, and even the descriptions of minor figures have the ring of truth. The historical backdrop reveals the same thoughtful, unaffected attention to detail, complete with theatrical productions, table-tipping and a set of endnotes to distinguish truth from artist...more
It was okay; I did not particularly care for the story. The main character (told in first person), Phoebe, has practically been brainwashed into thinking she is a gigantic pit of sin and is headed straight for hell... which did not particularly make her easy to identify with or fun to read about. The other main character, Nathan Samuels (told in third person), was slightly more sympathetic, although his pedophiliac tendencies certainly squashed the majority of any goodwill I as a reader felt.
Qui la recensione completa:

Corteggiavo questo romanzo sin da quando è uscito a fine 2011 e devo dire che non ne sono rimasta affatto delusa. Vi anticipo che non racconta una storia originalissima, ma la protagonista, l'ambientazione scelta e lo stile elegante e fluido dell'autrice , lo rendono un bel romanzo storico che ti colpisce e commuove.....
.....Questo libro, oltre ad essere un romanzo storico superbo, grazie alle descrizioni degli ambienti e del cl...more
well i loved this book. really gripped me from the begining. the story flowed easily had a good plot with many twists amd my half way ending prediction was wrong. that said when i did get to the end i almost felt it was rushed and maybe just a little obvious. the twists and turns were not massive but were intriguing and brought to you slowly giving you time to lead up to it.

Phoebe is a typical teenager having a lot of life thrown at her and growing up all at once. Those around did not help her...more
Miriam Wakerly
I was gradually drawn into this book. I loved the consistency of style and the fascinating world of Victorian, theatrical London. Well drawn, colourful characters and a story that keeps you guessing, but more than anything I admire Essie Fox's use of language evoking atmosphere with all the senses.
Sinead Fitzgibbon
This is a wonder of a novel. The beauty of its prose, the intricacy of the plot, and the complexity of the characters all ensure that this book grabs you from the outset, and keeps you enthralled long after the final page has been turned. Evocative, sensual, absorbing, and completely mesmerizing.
George Allan
The Somnambulist, is set in Victorian London and is the story of a seventeen year old girl, Phoebe Turner. She lives in the east end, with her strict, religious mother, Maud. And her glamorous Aunt Cissy. Cissy had once been a singing star on stage. One night Cissy makes a come back, at Wilton's Music Hall. She takes along Phoebe, against Maud's wishes. There Phoebe sees a stranger, Nathaniel Samuels. And so the tale begins. And what a tale, I loved this dark, Gothic treasure of a book. All the...more
Keith Dumble
Beautifully melancholic and evocative of the period. Characters who flitted in and out of each other's lives; unspoken secrets causing conflict and events which changed them forever. Full of excellently-crafted prose which conjured up the setting & mood perfectly.
I would recommend this book to everybody who just loves to read!
The writing is clever and engaging; the protagonist likable and sympathetic; and the story beautiful and memorable.
I am awaiting Essie Fox's next novel with much hope and anticipation.
Not the best read I've had recently, it certainly didn't keep me wanting to read it. It's all a little be irksome, especially the 'twists' which were at times simply including something had happened without introducing into the plot.

I found the plot itself was a little choppy, and somewhat sterotypical, as where many of the characters, there's most definitely a Sarah Waters vide in there. This could also be an issue, I'm no great Sarah Waters fan (unlike Essie Fox, as declared in her Author's No...more
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I've written three Victorian gothic mysteries, all published by Orion Books.

The first, The Somnambulist, was shortlisted for the National Book Awards, was featured on Channel 4's Book Show as one of the best reads of 2013, and has now been optioned for TV/film by Hat Trick Productions.

Elijah's Mermaid, features the hypocrisy in VIctorian art and literature, and how those worlds sometimes overlap...more
More about Essie Fox...
Elijah's Mermaid The Goddess and the Thief Silence Electric

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