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The House of Sight and Shadow: A Novel

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  27 reviews
In a city still recovering from the ravages of plague and fire, two doctors crisscross the boundaries of morality. It is a challenge that leads Sir Edmund Calcraft, an eminent and notorious anatomist, and Joseph Bendix, his ambitious young student, into playing a dark game with the growing criminal underworld. At the heart of the book lies a haunting love story that both d ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Villard (first published 2000)
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3.18  · 
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 ·  169 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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THE HOUSE OF SIGHT AND SHADOW, by Nicholas Griffin was a mix of "historical fiction" combined with elements of how doctors operated (and their reasonings for the methods), along with a romance between the apprentice and his master's "sickly" young daughter.

Although this was a very well written novel--and the operations described were fascinating to learn about--the pacing was so slow that I had a difficult time forcing myself to finish it. As I'm not into the "romance" angle at all, that part si
Sep 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought I wouldn't finish it, because it wasn't as captivating as the books I've read lately, but as I was reading the story became more and more interesting. The characters are as realistic as they could be, and it really was the only thing that kept me going through the first quarter of the book, because the development is pretty slow and incoherent (It might be the translation to Serbian). But after that part it gets better and better. I myself am fascinated by the placebo effect, ...more
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in history of medicine
Recommended to Jennifer by: Amanda
A little background on the book, and then my review...

This book is set in 18th century London, and follows a few months in the life of an apprentice physician, who at his stage of life should not still be an apprentice, but he made some foolish love choices in the past which held back his learning & progress. The book begins as he is returning to London from Paris, searching out a new mentor, and trying to forget his past lover, who left him when he no could longer fit into her social circle
Marguerite Kaye
I should have liked this one, but I couldn't finish it. Got about half way, and was so bored that I gave up, which is very rare for me - usually I flick through to the end. It had all the ingredients I thought I would like - Georgian London, Defoe, the real underworld of Jonathon Wilde and Jack Shepard, doctors etc. But it simply didn't work for me. I'm not sure why. I disliked the main protagonist, and I was a bit appalled by the way the surgeon treated his daughter, but I think mostly it was t ...more
Jen Alien-Spouse
Aug 22, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the only book that I have ever thrown in the rubbish bin the moment I'd finished reading it. Hated it and I'm only noting the title here, so I don't accidentally read it again.

Mainly I disliked the central protagonist, but I also found the dubious science, sloppy history and twisted romantic interest irritating bordering on offensive.
Linda Tuplin
This had all the makings of a story I should have really loved: medieval medicine and mystery. Somehow, though, I just could not relate to the writing style and the story just didn't hold my attention. It improved somewhat in the last couple chapters but, overall, I was quite disappointed.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh man, I so wanted to love this story. The premise was really intriguing, but the book itself fell flat for me. I'm not sure what it was exactly that made it a bit of a chore & kind of choppy for me. I did, however, enjoy the last few chapters. I'm happy with the way things ended for the characters.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nicholas Green has a real knack for creating believable and empathetic characters, and he is a master of this era of historical fiction.
Alex Telander
The era is the eighteenth century, London, and the time is when medicine is little more than a fancy form of alchemy, consisting mainly of remedies that vary from physician to apothecary. But in these pages lies a haunting love story that can only end in one way.

Our main character is a Mr. Joseph Bendix. After some years of wasting his father’s money at medical school, while spending his time with a countess, he retreats to London where he becomes the apprentice of a once-renowned doctor, Sir Ed
Fiona Robinson
Picked this up from a Dr. friend. It was a surprisingly good read.
It's the story of a young doctor in early eighteenth-century London, who has left Paris following heartbreak and come to London to learn from a master doctor. He disavows love and dedicates himself to the pursuit of physiological knowledge through the means that were standard in the day. That is stealing recently hanged bodies from fresh graves and dissecting them in the basement. I read this book with considerable skepticism, no
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
Joseph Bendix returns to England after losing his fortune and heart in Paris. Bendix is an ambitious medical student interested in testing his unconventional theories. He is able to secure a position studying with Sir Edmund Calcraft and helps the elderly anatomist in the testing of his own unorthodox theories in rather unconventional ways. Both men are driven to cure the same patient, Calcraft's young and beautiful daughter. Each is willing to do anything to free her from her affliction.

This i
This was absolutely a "judged by its cover" buy from a book sale: and a good one. Two doctors with competing medical theories in 18th century London, when bleeding & taking mercury were common cures.
It was very dark, lots of dissection, crime, and disease. Very "underbelly of society". Interesting how the two doctors sought to cure a woman they loved, but never completely selflessly, always wishing to be proved right.
The most interesting characters were outside the main trio, including the
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read Griffin's other two novels before this one I wasn't expecting to be as impressed as I was (having disliked 'The Requiem Shark' and been disappointed by 'The Masquerade;). While the story of a young medical student seeking to learn from a famous anatomist may not sound adventurous, Griffin has succeeded in creating a suspense, dark tale of obsession. When viewed through the lens of the 21st century, the flaws in their medical and philosophical theories seem enormous, but for their tim ...more
An interesting book. I enjoyed some things about it: the historic setting and descriptions, the bizarre character relationships, the writing. But, there were some very strange/bad things as well, that really threw me off. The pace of the story and the ending in particular were very confusing. I'm not sure what else to call it. When I put down the book for the last time last night, I just thought "huh...". I guess that's not the kind of reaction I would hope for in a good book.
Rosina Lippi
A very disturbing novel, set in London in late 17th century, early 18th. A young doctor is apprenticed to an established scientist with unusual theories about illness and infection. His attraction to a young woman of good family and the darker aspects of London's underclass work together in complex ways.

There is no happy ending here, but a realistic one.
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one really; surely there are more interesting novels on this subject out there
Disturbing. Not exactly one of those that you just can't put down.. Thus, the low rating. Interesting as a historical fiction accout of early medicine. It's set in London, also of little interest to me. I actually noticed a couple of errors in the type. Maybe this was fixed in later editions. I have a former library edition.
R.B. Harkess
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
This is a bit confusing as the blurb on the back cover actually refers to a different book, and there's not description of what this book actually is about. For some reason, I thought it was steampunk, but it was actually a period work about a doctor in the days when surgery was one step away from butchery. Probably very interesting to somebody interested in the field, but didn't appeal to me.
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Very cool book that takes place in 18th century London about a young apprentice learning medicine. Especially cool because I just returned from a trip to the UK and learned about body snatching, which was very much a part of this book.

Intriguing characters, gruesome surgeries and of course, a love story. The ending is bittersweet I would say, in true romantic fashion.
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the medical development displayed of the time period. The stealing/selling of bodies for medical advancement. To my knowledge some of the events are pretty accurate including the church and superstitious beliefs of the time.
Kate North
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
Not crazy about this one. It was ok, and some of the aspects were good, but it just didn't really appeal, despite being the sort of thing I normally like (historical fiction, made up characters interspersed with real historical people). I read about two thirds and skimmed the rest...
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hmmmm I liked the synopsis but having a tough time getting into this book.

OK it is starting to pick up but it really is a slow paced novel.

Yay! Action!

Slow novel. Well written but not my style.
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book, its dark and moody. The tests they did in the name of science. Hey lets drink...and see what the results will be..
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starts a bit slow but then builds to a very unique and heart warming story of sorrow and love.
It started out strong but the ending was a bit of a fizzle.
Bonnie Jeanne
The House of Sight and Shadow: A Novel by Nicholas Griffin (2002)
Carly Mcpherson
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting themes , goes a bit awry towards the end.
Brooke Plumlee
rated it liked it
Aug 28, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Nov 30, 2013
rated it it was ok
Jan 09, 2012
rated it liked it
Aug 20, 2008
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Nicholas was a sales rep for Little, Brown in 1990. He researched this first novel by spending a month sailing on a replica 18th Century tall ship in the Caribbean. The result is total authenticity.