Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The House of Velvet and Glass” as Want to Read:
The House of Velvet and Glass
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt

The House of Velvet and Glass

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  7,579 ratings  ·  1,193 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,579 ratings  ·  1,193 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The House of Velvet and Glass
May 01, 2012 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.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
I loved the era of this book and really wanted to like it. I found it very, very slow and not very suspenseful. Really disappointing to me. The author clearly did alot of research on the era but just couldn't pull through with the story. ...more
Jill Furedy
Aug 04, 2012 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
Erika Robuck
May 21, 2012 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
Apr 18, 2012 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 23, 2012 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
Apr 20, 2012 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
May 01, 2012 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
Jun 04, 2012 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
Rachel Hyman
Apr 30, 2012 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
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.
Feb 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
This was a book club read. I held out lots of hope for this as it came at the urging of "well red" friends (that's not a spellling error! LOL).

Although the writing is good, with descriptions that are quite exquisite at times, the plot moved oooh-sooo-slow. With the Titanic as the backdrop the story follows a well off society family that lost a wife/mother and daughter/sister to the tragic sinking.

The story goes between two time periods, one quite a long time before the sinking when the now widow
Feb 01, 2013 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
Jul 13, 2012 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
Sep 26, 2012 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 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
Mar 04, 2012 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
Charlotte Guzman
Oct 28, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was just ok for me. I felt like it jumped around and when it had its good parts, and I was caught up in the story, it tended to drag on in a description that went on and on. I don't think I would read another book by this author. ...more
Feb 17, 2022 rated it liked it
The characters are well developed but the story moves back and forth in time periods. It follows Sibyl’s life in a time before the Titanic and again after the sinking. In addition it reports on her father’s life as a young sailor in oriental lands. For me the changing time periods interrupted the flow of the story. I felt there were parts of this history that could have been so much more but we’re just glossed over. It was an interesting view of life in the various time periods.
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book much more than Howe's previous book The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I had such high hopes for Deliverance Dane and felt a little let down. Conversely I went into this book with much lower expectations and found myself pleasantly surprised.

The story jumps around between events on the night the Titanic sunk, Shanghai 1868, and Massachusetts 1915. Matriarch Helen and her youngest daughter Eulah are on Titanic when it sinks. Helen's other daughter Sybil thinks she may be ab
May 14, 2012 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 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 & sociologists ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I kind f liked her first book, which is why I read this book. However, this book seemed to jump around too much. Boston, Shanghai, the Titanic. Parts of this I did enjoy though.
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Originally published at http://www.readingreality.net/2012/04...

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
Jan 31, 2015 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
Apr 10, 2012 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
Sep 23, 2011 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 15, 2013 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
Apr 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-borrowed
The House of Velvet and Glass was published in 2012, one of many books that entered the market in correlation with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. This book is less about the survivors or victims of that disaster and more concentrated on how the city of Boston and its families handled the tragic loss of the people they loved. Sibyl Allston, her seafaring father, Lan, and her rebellious brother, Harlan are living in 1915 Boston while remembering the loss of a mother ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Koontzland - Dean...: The House of Velvet and Glass 10 25 Dec 01, 2013 06:59PM  
Rare Reads at Top...: "The House of Velvet and Glass" by Katherine Howe 1 9 Feb 28, 2013 01:51PM  
The twist??? SPOILER ALERT!!! 9 123 Aug 07, 2012 08:33AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Summer with My Sisters
  • The Time Collector
  • A Tale of Two Murders (A Dickens of a Crime, #1)
  • The Painted Girls
  • The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow
  • The Great Witch of Brittany
  • Lamp Black, Wolf Grey
  • Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #2)
  • Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street
  • Looking for Jane
  • Raven (The Raven Saga, #1)
  • Our Kind of People
  • Elsewhere
  • Corrections in Ink: A Memoir
  • Sound of Darkness (Krewe of Hunters #36)
  • Floating in My Mother's Palm
  • Agony of the Leaves (A Tea Shop Mystery, #13)
  • Little Souls
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Katherine Howe is a #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer of historical fiction and nonfiction. Her best known books are The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2009 and was named one of USA Today's top tend books of the year, and Conversion, which received the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award in young adult literature. In 20 ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
38 likes · 14 comments
“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
“In this world, everyone is friends with everyone else. In a way.” 2 likes
More quotes…