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Bitter Orange

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  12,338 ratings  ·  1,650 reviews
From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she's distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peeph ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 9th 2018 by Tin House Books (first published July 19th 2018)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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Elyse  Walters
I can’t pretend any longer that I haven’t read this book - can’t put off writing a review forever - (for my own sanity). My head is swimming with thoughts. I’ll be back with more things I’d like to express - share - review- call it what you want - soon - still need a day or two.

NO OTHER BOOK - THIS ENTIRE YEAR - has me THIS involved in thought!!!!!!!!

Claire Fuller is phenomenal- brilliant - INCREDIBLY TALENTED!!!!
“Bitter Orange” demonstrates just how skillful and extraordinary of a writer she
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a 2018 Tin House Books publication.

This one may be an acquired taste for some, but I felt this one all the way down to my toes.

During 2018, I found myself reaching, more than ever before, for more comforting, light and easy, 'feel good' books to soothe my troubled soul. But I do still have a huge tendency to gravitate towards darker, troubling, moody or heavily laden novels, and especially love it when I pick up on a Gothic tone intertwined in there, as well.
Amalia Gkavea
’Do our actions betray our nature?’’

The setting: a dilapidated mansion in the idyllic English countryside. The era: 1969, the most exciting time to be alive in recent History. The time when conventions and traditions are shuttered to make room for freedom and equality. Frances arrives in Hampshire to write a report on garden architecture on behalf of the new owner of the mansion. Her mental state is quite unstable since the death of her mother. Soon, she discovers that she’s not alone in Ly
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
3.5 stars

Frances Jellico is dying.

As she lies in her bed awaiting death, she looks back on her life and that summer in 1969 which left its mark on her forever.

Frances Jellico was the caretaker for her Mother for the last ten years of her mother's life. When her Mother died, Frances went to live at an old crumbling estate/manor called the Lyntons to research the architecture of the gardens. Frances will not be alone at the Lyntons. An intriguing couple, Cara and Peter have also moved in. Peter
Diane S ☔
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've heard it said that the devil is in the details. This novel not only has some great descriptive passages, but they are used in a way that draws the reader into the story, while also making this memorable. A limited amount of characters, Frances, near forty, a spinster who yearns for love, has spent over twenty years taking care of her mother. Cara, a young Irish woman, who loves everything Italian, and her partner Peter who seems to be Cara's anchor. Then lastly, but he appears near the begi ...more
Kevin Ansbro
"I am the person who stands at the police tape watching someone's life unravel."
—Frances Jellico

Prickly old lady, Frances Jellico, lies dying in an 'end-of-life' facility of some kind.
She is visited by Victor, a seemingly dubious vicar (yes, Victor the vicar), who hopes to extract a confession from Frances for a hitherto-unspecified crime.
So, with the 'enigmatic beginning' box firmly ticked, Frances goes on to recall the English summer of '69 and a ramshackle country home whose crumbling gra
Hannah Greendale
A dying woman’s memory of 1969, the summer in which she lived with a mysterious couple in a crumbling English country house, is delivered with a perpetual air of dreaminess.

Bitter Orange opens strong, with echoes of Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier: A dilapidated estate that extends into shadows, being choked by a garden run wild, and a woman named Frances whose life is mechanical, faithless, stagnant. She’s repressed by a lack of physical interaction and so consumed with loneliness that w
I can say for certain that the writing is beautiful, but I had issues with the narrative and couldn't follow well. Maybe I'll try again. I won't rate for now. ...more
"He strokes my hair and doesn't answer, or I haven't spoken. Perhaps he believes that pain as well as joy makes us who we are."


I had no idea what a haunting, creative storyline this would be that would find itself hidden behind that gorgeous cover. Claire Fuller carves her words into a deftly atmospheric telling surrounded by the lush English countryside. As the reader leans in, the fragrance of tart, over-ripened fruit fills the air. And there are plenty of sharp-edged seeds hi
“ It was so hard to get it right, the way other people had conversations, back and forth with no effort. I wondered, not for the first time, how it was done.
. . .
. . . she thanked me for listening, and I saw it was that easy, that was all I had to do to make a friend; she wasn’t looking for answers.”

Frances lived for years in a small flat she shared with her ungracious, ungrateful invalid mother. As a young woman, she didn’t cross paths with people often so never really learned the social ni
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from Bitter Orange but the story was different than whatever that was. A sense of impending doom built as the book progressed and eventually it becomes obvious something big and tragic occurs, but the how remains in question.

It’s 1969 and 39-year old Frances takes a job at Lyntons, a rundown country mansion. She is tasked with assessing the architecture throughout the property. Also staying there for related work projects are Peter and his girlfriend, C
Ova - Excuse My Reading
This was a fantastic read, absolute woodoo spell of a book. Finished last night, I am still thinking about it.
Full review on my blog
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

How many of these old ass reviews can I possible have left, you might ask? Well . . . . .

Or at least it seems. I read Bitter Orange nearly a month ago but never posted anything due to the fact that . . . .

Does everybody else struggle with finding something to say about 2 and 3 Star books as much as I do?

To begin with, this was yet another selection I immediately requested from the library simply because it was all over Insta
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.

I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4.

The best part of this book is the atmosphere that Claire Fuller creates with her prose. This book gave me the creeps which I wast totally not expecting. It was so eerie and I got a haunted house vibe from it at times. Fuller uses lush language to create an astonishing portrait of a crumbling English countryside mansion. She really makes th
DNF - No rating - Will not be included in my 2018 reading challenge.

I have been reading this book off and on for about 5 hours now. I'm only on page 80 and at least 20 of those I have had to skim. Frances may be fascinated with her neighbors, Peter & Cara, but I couldn't be more uninterested. I did cheat and read the spoilers to find out what the big conclusion would be and while the ending sounds interesting (and shocking!) there is just no way I'd be able to slog my way to it.

This book has s
It's the summer of 1969, and Frances Jellico is at Lyntons, a decaying country house: once grand, stripped of its treasures during wartime. Having seen some pieces Frances has written for an academic journal, the new owner, Liebermann, has employed her to assess a bridge that sits in the grounds. But she's not alone: Liebermann has also commissioned Peter Robertson to make an inventory of the house's remaining contents, and he arrives with his partner, Cara. They're a carefree, glamorous pair – ...more
A perfect heatwave read, Claire Fuller’s third novel tells the suspenseful story of the profligate summer of 1969 spent at a dilapidated English country house. Frances Jellico, who seems to be on her deathbed in a care home, recalls for the chaplain, her friend Victor Wylde, the August 20 years ago when she stayed at Lyntons, a neoclassical mansion in Hampshire, to report on the garden architecture for the new American owner, a Mr. Liebermann. Frances was an awkward 39-year-old at that time; hav ...more
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Consider the bitter orange tree. From a distance, the fruits look luscious and ripe and juicy. But for those who actually try them, the taste is old, dried up, bitter, and in desperate need of a little sugar.

Bitter orange may be a metaphor for Frances’ life. Approaching 40, Frances has spent most of her adult life nursing her mother and is finally freed. When offered a chance to research the architecture of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country house, she jumps at the opportunity. Yet quickly,
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Frances Jellisco, homely, lonely, starved for attention and affection, overweight and quite naive to social interactions. She comes to Lyntons Manor/Estate, to architecturally research and investigate the gardens, grounds and a supposed bridge.

Frances has a pretty solitary childhood and it was basically she and her caustic, inflammatory mother, once her father departed from their lives, running off with Frances’ aunt. That was a major trauma in her and her mothers’ life; they lived together and
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A dilapidated estate makes a perfect setting. The author is a pro at descriptives, though maybe to a fault. This is an uneventful tale, literally. This plot is sorely lacking in ACTION or EVENTS to keep this reader interested. I skimmed so many pages of descriptives, waiting for something to happen, (though never in a suspenseful way, but in boredom.) 315 pages of mostly nothing but descriptives with an occasional conversation. An event happens in the last 20 pages that is supposed to be a twist ...more
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, best-of-2021
At first this book put me in mind of Penelope Lively's style - a character, near death, lies reminiscing about a long ago, life-altering incident, but when an air of menace wafted into the proceedings, it seemed like Patricia Highsmith all the way. And, indeed, there's something of a Mr. Ripley feel to this tale of a tangled threesome, though there's more of a mystery in Fuller's book as to who's going to do what to whom . . . and when.

Here we have one man and two women - a couple and an interl
Kimberly Dawn
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novel which presents many questions which linger after the “bitter”
ending. The wonderfully descriptive writing describes the grounds of the once grand estate, which is now overrun with vines and grasses, ruined and ravaged gardens and outbuildings. Beautiful views are still seen from afar of the once picturesque outdoor setting and the now crumbling ruins of a once glamorous mansion. The three characters each had something to hide or escape, it seemed. Reading the novel, I had a sense
Bill Kupersmith
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Clair Fuller’s first novel Our Endless Numbered Days utterly captured me with its strange tale of a father and daughter living out his survivalist fantasy for years alone in the woods and its bizarre aftermath. (Fortunately not at all like Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling’s repulsive treatment of a similar theme.) But Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller’s second novel, failed to catch fire for me, perhaps because both the characters and the setting were very damp. The latest, Bitter Orange, is ...more
Eric Anderson
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think this novel must be the perfect summer read. I've enjoyed it immensely amidst Britain's recent heat wave as its themes and setting sync with this feverish weather. It's told from the perspective of elderly Frances who is lying on her deathbed. She recalls a hot summer in 1969 when she worked at a dilapidated English country estate alongside a mysterious couple. An American has purchased this crumbling residence and they've been hired to catalogue and assess any architectural items of wort ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Our narrator is near death and recalling the events of the summer of 1969 when she found herself at an abandoned country house. Despite her boozy sounding name, Fran Jellico is a 39 year old, thick around the middle, awkward, greying virgin barely held together with her mother's (who she's just lost) foundation garments. Suddenly she's thrown in with Peter and his mercurial wife Cara and despite not knowing how to meet people, make friends, and hold a conversation she manages to strike a summer ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We were all standing on the edge that day, at the very rim of the precipice, staring into the void. Something inside us wanted to see what it would be like to jump, just to find out what would happen - except that we knew that once we had jumped there would be no way back." -- Frances, page 386

Set in an English countryside mansion (think Downton Abbey . . . gone to seed and well past its glory years) during the balmy but eventful summer of 1969, Claire Fuller's Bitter Orange is a slow-burn of a
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I did not understand this book. After posting this review I will read other people’s reviews and also read reviews from periodicals and newspapers if there are any such reviews. In the hopes of understanding the book. But that’s cheating…I should have gotten the gist of the book from the author herself (her written words). I have read many many books in my time, and feel frustrated after going through this 317-page novel, and not getting it. And I ask myself “Is it me?” because one reviewer like ...more
Janelle Janson
Thank you so much Tin House for my copy of BITTER ORANGE by Claire Fuller - all opinions are my own.

This is an atmospheric, haunting, and twisty story with beautiful language that will keep you captivated until the very end.

In the summer of 1969, Frances Jellico is commissioned by the new owner to survey and write a report of a dilapidated mansion located in the idyllic English countryside just outside of London. Frances leaves everything behind and settles into the mansion’s attic for the summe
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another beautiful book by Claire Fuller...
In the summer of 1969 Frances Jellico has just been assigned to assess the garden architecture of a crumbling English countryside estate alongside two other occupants, Peter and Cara. Frances finds herself living a somewhat hedonistic life but soon discovers that how things appear on the outside may not be the truth of the matter. This deeply atmospheric novel, with its multitude of layers and slow boil approach, leads readers down a rabbit hole moving cleverly towards its stunning conclusion. F ...more
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Claire Fuller trained as a sculptor before working in marketing for many years. In 2013 she completed an MA in Creative Writing, and wrote her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days. It was published in the UK by Penguin, in the US by Tin House, in Canada by House of Anansi and bought for translation in 15 other countries. Our Endless Numbered Days won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize.

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