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The Crimson Rooms (Evelyn Gifford #1)

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  1,131 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
In the spirit of Sarah Waters and Geraldine Brooks, a dramatic mystery about love, secrets, and discovery in post-World War I London.

Still haunted by the death of her only brother, James, in the Great War, Evelyn Gifford is completely unprepared when a young nurse and her six-year-old son appear on the Giffords' doorstep one night. The child, the nurse claims, is James's,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published 2009)
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Oct 22, 2009 Carole rated it it was amazing
Evelyn Gifford (30) ~ the narrator ~ is a young woman who is living in the past, present and future.

The Past - The year is 1924 and Evelyn, who is a trainee solicitor, lives a lonely, unhappy life with her mother, grandmother and elderly aunt Prudence in a big rambling decaying house, still mourning the death of her brother, James, killed in WWII six years earlier. Both her mother and Prudence can't understand why she wants to be a solicitor, they think it's totally unsuitable for a young woman.
Mar 17, 2010 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though most of the action in “The Crimson Room” takes place in the mid twenties the real impetus comes from World War I. That war shaped the characters; warped them, saddened, bent or strengthened them. When her brother James is killed in the war Evelyn’s family allows her to use the money set aside for James’ education. She becomes one of the first female lawyers. Meredith, a young woman who’d met James while nursing near the front, appears on the family doorstep with a young boy who looks inex ...more
Linda C
Yet another book that started out strong, and then tapered off into a mess of mediocrity. Very disappointing. While Katherin McMahon is clearly a gifted writer, her characters were flat and lifeless. The heroine, Evelyn, was as repressed at the end of the book as she was at the beginning. Although I was initially cheering for Evelyn to break free of her obnoxious relatives and throw off the mantle of dutiful daughter, she was unable to do so. I kept waiting for her to cut her hair and even that ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read and loved 'The Alchemist's Daughter' by Katherine McMahon and was eager to see if her other novels were as good. This one certainly was and I think I may have found a new favorite author. One of the things I liked about 'The Alchemist's Daughter' was the strong female protagonist that McMahon created and while their characters are completely different the strong female protagonist in this story is equally compelling.

Evelyn Gifford is a thirty year old, Cambridge educated, lawyer
May 08, 2010 Zoe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lydia Presley
If I had to sum up my feelings toward this book in one word, that word would be "apathetic".

The premise sounded good. Post-WWI era in London, one of the first female lawyers struggling to make her mark, the murder of a newly wed young woman, the accused her new husband. Family drama, court drama and love drama all wrapped up in one novel.

It wasn't that the writing was bad, or that the story was necessarily bad (I was most interested in the mystery part of it all), it was just that I was so incre
Feb 05, 2014 Toast rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's obviously something about pioneer women that gets under McMahon's skin. In The Rose of Sebastopol it was Florence Nightingale and the first female nurses. In this its the first female lawyers. Again an area I know nothing about and was delighted to learn.
Its also about taking on an independent role, usually the man's role, and using individual character to succeed against the odds, the law, the establishment.
It also deals with real human emotions - grief, guilt, love, fear - in a way th
Jill Robertson
I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Crimson Rooms' by Katherine McMahon. The author wrote in a style that emulated the period in which it was set (1924) so it took a while for me to get into it. But I loved the idea of a protagonist being a young woman lawyer at a time when women were not welcome to practise and the few who had the courage and ambition to challenge the status quo were openly criticised and ostracised. I appreciated that each character had their good points and flaws, in particular Evelyn ...more
"The Crimson Rooms" is a tragedy-style historical set in 1924 in England. It also contained a mystery and a romance. The characters were complex. Historical and setting details were expertly woven into the story and brought the story alive in my imagination.

However, it's a depressing story. Evelyn's family is stuck in their grief. Her two main legal cases can't really have "happy endings" even if won. And, due to the high post-war female-to-male ratio and her low self-image, Evelyn's desperate t
Alisha Marie
I won this book from the First Reads program here on Goodreads and it really sounded promising. But I've been having terrible luck with historical fiction recently and unfortunately, The Crimson Rooms has fallen into that stigma.

First, let me say that I love historical fiction books. They usually allow me to be immersed in a time period that I would never have been a part of and they have the added element of teaching me something that I didn't previously know. But the thing with The Crimson Roo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marguerite Kaye
Nov 20, 2011 Marguerite Kaye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this! As a lawyer who never practiced, I was appalled at the way women lawyers were treated in the 1920s in the UK, though not really surprised (was astonished too, that not once in the years I studied law did the history of lawyers form any part of the curriculum). The key theme in this book was what happens to those who survive after a major war/catastrophe. Evelyn, the main protagonist, has lost a beloved brother, and aside from the continuing tragic effect of his death on her family, s ...more
Goddess Of Blah

When you visit a bookshop and see the front end stands littered with fluffy pink books that revolve around the deary existence of a shopaholic, an imbecile involve with the undead, or pervy billionaires out there to dominate you (and of course the height of every woman's ambition is the be the chosen prize of the fattest meal ticket - regardless that you co
Catherine Siemann
Jun 07, 2010 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Bibliophile
I'm very interested in the entry of women into the professions in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly the legal profession, so when I read Bibliophile's review of The Crimson Rooms, I put it on my must-read list. Main character Evelyn Gifford is an articled clerk, making her way into the legal profession in the post-WWI world. Although she's the only one bringing any income into her now all-female family, rather than being appreciated, she faces disapproval for her defiance of traditional ...more
Leah Kautz
I received this in a pre-release giveaway from GP Putnam's, and I am so glad that I did!

The introduction to this story was very quick and abrupt; a major life event happening to the characters before we even knew their names. This bothered me at first, but as I got further into the story it came around and I don't think it would have worked any other way.

This story follows Evelyn, one of the first female lawyers in London, post-WWI. While dealing with the loss of her brother to war, her entire f
Feb 17, 2010 Bridget rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Evelyn has never stopped mourning the death of her only brother, James. When a nurse shows up on her doorstep stating that the child was James's, Evelyn is more then caught off guard. The nurse says that they need somewhere to stay and Evelyn opens her home to the two strangers.

Evelyn is an attorney who happens upon a case that one of her co-workers didn't feel was important. It turns out that this case hits close to home. What really happened to the brother she loved?

Katharine is a natural! I r
Aug 07, 2012 Mia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantastic
Such an enjoyable novel, quietly suspenseful and as full of pent-up emotion as hoydenish Americans imagine early 20th century British ladies to be. How many people aren't what they seem? How many ways are there to sacrifice oneself for something--or for nothing? It's a multi-layered story of the struggles between people's higher and lower selves, the classes, and the sexes in the aftermath of the first World War. The most enjoyable novel I've read all year, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enj ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good--surprised me. Set in England a few years after the end of WWI, it is told by Evelyn, a woman grieving for her brother, lost in the war, and for her own life, shattered like so many others at the time. One of the first female lawyers, she struggles with two cases in particular, a murder, and a woman threatened with losing her children. Very intelligently and movingly told, and I'm really hoping McMahon decides to write a follow-up at some point.

ETA: just visited her FB page, and she
Feb 05, 2015 Knitme23 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, when I start reading a book, I know instantly that I'm in the hands of a skilled story-teller. Characterization, narration, word-choice, pacing--everything just flows together, creating a world that closes around me. McMahon's The Crimson Rooms is a perfect example of that experience. I got the title from the FB article "Books to read if you like Downton Abbey," and I inter-library-loaned a few on one of our many snow days. . . Several of them were weak outings (lookin' at you, Snobbe ...more
Janet Schneider
May 21, 2010 Janet Schneider rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maisie Dobbs and Ian Rutledge fans
What I loved about this book: setting (London 1924); the heroine's unusual-for-the-time career and her efforts to practice as an attorney; authentic period details in fashion, socio-economic concerns, and post-war sensibilities. I was transfixed by and transported to a time and place that is not much written about, where it was unusual for a woman to dine alone in a tea-room, not to mention smoke a cigarette. The relationships and actions of the characters seemed believable in context.

Sep 11, 2011 Amy marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
I resorted to a Random Number Generator to pick what to read next. And it pulled out this books number.

The blurb sounded pretty promising, but I soon as I started it, alarm bells started ringing. I couldn't connect to Evelyn, the protaganist; Meredith was portrayed as manipulative & horrible in a totally stereotypical way...I think this tried to be a Sarah Waters novel...but didn't quite manage it.

Who knows, it might suddenly all click into place, but 150 pages in and I just cannot go on.
Connie Jensen
Jun 17, 2011 Connie Jensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb book- great combination of an intriguing and at times harrowing personal story, with a compelling element of "whodunnit" The insight into the lives and motivations of the brave and intelligent female pioneers of the period is invaluable for me as I embark on writing a book about a head teacher belonging to this generation.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 29, 2015 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs
This was a book club read that followed on from the previous months choice with similar themes, "In falling snow". That was women in medicine and this months - women in law. As a medical professional I found last months read frustrating and somewhat inaccurate. I felt the author added every scrap of medical knowledge she knew to demonstrate her understanding but it came off as too "try hard". It bothered me and did not ring true, the thing that hung the story together was the way WW1 altered liv ...more
Mar 07, 2013 Louise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't do much for me I'm afraid...a bit slow to start...and never warned to any of the characters...our felt anything about them...even mild dislike might have sparked an interest.

Jan 04, 2014 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I think this is more of a three star book overall, for some reason (maybe my mood, maybe the weather), I found myself really enjoying this more than I expected, and maybe a slight bit more than the prose or plot deserved. But that sounds unfair - it is a good solid novel. It had a number of elements which, when combined in one novel, elevates the story.

In this case, I got one of my favourite historical periods (the 1920s), combined with a really interesting protagonist, Miss Evelyn G
Idril Celebrindal
I enjoyed this while I was reading it but thought the ending was rather ridiculously overwrought.
Sep 02, 2012 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
nothing special - had to make myself keep reading.
May 20, 2014 Gill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most enjoyable book. It is set in a an England still heavily affected by the the recent carnage of the Great War. Evelyn is grieving for her brother but also guiltily aware that she would not be pursuing a career in the law if he had lived. As she investigates a murder case she also faces a new challenge when Meredith arrives with her nephew. This book brings alive the changing times of the Twenties as her straight-laced mother and aunt are confronted by the bohemian Meredith, and female lawyers ...more
Dec 28, 2010 Bookaholics rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon
Historical Novel – Jan. 4th, 2011
3 1/2 stars

In the aftermath of WWI, Evelyn Gifford is doing everything to keep her family from falling apart. With her brother and father dead, one from war and the other from old age, Evelyn’s job as one of the first female lawyer is what’s keeping her mother, aunt and two old cookmaids fed. Then out of the blue, a woman named Meredith showed up at her front door with a six-year old boy. Meredith claims the child is her (Eve
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Mar 03, 2015 09:45AM  
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Katharine McMahon is the author of 9 novels, including the bestselling The Rose of Sebastopol, which was a Richard and Judy pick for 2007.

Her latest book, The Woman in the Picture, a sequel to The Crimson Rooms, is published in July 2015.

She combines writing with judicial work - she's a magistrate and serves as a Judicial Appointments Commissioner, and with teaching.

Read her blog at http://katha
More about Katharine McMahon...

Other Books in the Series

Evelyn Gifford (2 books)
  • The Woman in the Picture

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