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The Mesmerist

(The Mesmerist #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  525 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Unable to find stage work, actresses Cordelia Preston and Rillie Spoons need to find a way of making a living. Cordelia remembers the skills of her aunt and sets out to be a phreno-mesmerist, advising couples on their compatibility and enlightening women on The Gentle Intricacies of the Wedding Night'. Cordelia finds that she does indeed possess the gift for mesmerism, and ...more
400 pages
Published April 5th 2007 by Sphere (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  525 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderfully entertaining drama, set in 19th century London; and it’s a lovely warm story, full of emotions, light and shade, drama and suspense.

Cordelia Preston and her oldest, dearest friend, Rillie Spoons, were actresses, but they had both had passed the first flush of youth, and they found that that the only roles left to them were hags, crones and elderly mothers; and that they were expected to be so grateful that they could at least still work in small, provincial theatres for
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a thoroughly good yarn woven around the social and economic history of women in 19th Century London. I enjoyed the feisty characters and the good-humoured spirit and general warmth of the story telling. It's the first Barbara Ewing book I've read, finding it by chance in a second-hand bookshop, and it won't be the last, as the next book on my list is the sequel: The Circus of Ghosts.
Lesley McCullough
I picked this up in a sale for 33p and wasn't sure what to expect as I had never read Barbara Ewing before. I found it a bit slow reading at first as I couldn't really get interested in Hester and Kitty's story. However when Cordelia's story began to unfold the narrative became not just more interesting but moved at a much faster pace. The story was eventually intriging and I'm glad I stuck with it.
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My favourite Barbara Ewing book, bring on the port.
Deborah Swift
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this book from the library, knowing nothing about Barbara Ewing, but just liking the sound of the story. And I have discovered a great popular writer, who I see has just published another book, The Circus of Ghosts. Obviously lots of other people know how great she is, because it is currently sitting in the number one slot in Smith's. So yes, I have bought that one too.

The Mesmerist has been brilliantly researched and gives insights into the Victorian craze for mesmerism with its then
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
“Human beings can only carry so much pain.” Yes Ms. Cordelia Preston and you have had more than your share. The pages open to introduce us to Ms. Cordelia Preston and Ms. Amaryllis Spoons soon to be out of work aging actresses by trade. But they are great friends. Mesmerism is on the rise in 1838 London. Using their acting skills the two friends open their own business with Cordelia as the first and only female mesmerist. Sought after by the upper classes it seems the two friends success is ...more
Ruth O'hagan
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book so interesting for so many reasons! The whole aspect of mesmerism was fascinating and I loved how they explained it through the story. The book had interesting and mysterious flashbacks that really helped to develop a strong connection with the main character. My favourite element of the book was the strong female characters, how they were strong entrepreneurs who were in charge of their own livelihoods (which was quite radical at the time). They were in charge of their own ...more
Dawn Barton
A very good read. This is about two out of work actresses Miss Cordelia Preston & Miss Rillie Spoon who struggle to get work in Victorian London. Cordelia inherited the ability from her mother to ease people's pain and suffering through the power of her hands and sets herself up as a Phreno-Mesmerist. But when a murder happens close to home, it threatens to reveal the secret of her past and a family she once lost - secrets that if revealed could have an impact on the Royal Family itself.

Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didnt know what to expect when I started reading this. Its been on my tbr pile for about 2 years, bought from a charity shop. I also knew that the author is an actress but has not been seen on TV for some years now. I was very pleasantly surprised - Barbara Ewing really can write. I got into it straightaway. The main characters, Cordelia and Rillie, both ageing out of work actresses, were very strong, the plot was good and you want to know more about them, their backstory being gradually ...more
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly entertaining novel set in early Victorian London, the Mesmerist is the story of an aging actress with a colourful past as the mistress of a lord. Discovering that she has the ability to take away people’s pain, she swaps the theatre for consulting rooms in Bloomsbury. It’s all going swimmingly until her past returns to haunt her. The story is full of vividly painted characters, and bustles along at a rollicking pace. It is funny, poignant and distressing by turns. At times I found ...more
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book, it is set in 17th Century London, it's a mystery, an old fashioned melodrama and romance.

I enjoying learning about the art of Mesmerism and how it was used to help put patients at ease during surgery.

The author does an excellent job of recreating 1838 London I really felt I was there and could even smell the filth and grime in the streets as Cordelia Preston and her best friend make their way through London trying to make their fortunes.

The trials and tribulations
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really did love this book. Probably one of my favourites by Barbara Ewing. I just couldn't put it down. I loved the characters and I just love reading about England in the 1800's. The Mesmerism side of it was very interesting as I didn't really know much about it. The main character, Cordelia had such tragedy in her life. This book made me cry quite a few times. Life can be so tragic but the human spirit can be so strong. This is a perfect example of the human spirit. I hope you enjoy it as ...more
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Lovely, gripping, fast-paced story, and a great portrayal of women's friendships. Memorable characters and fantastic descriptions of London, but suffers slightly from tipping over into total melodrama towards the end.
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have reviewed this book on my blog. It is a fantastic read.
KL Caley
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

The origins of the story begin with two sisters, Hester and Kitty Preston, who run away from home at a young age. Hester and Kitty soon find work as actresses but an accident occurs and Hester damages her knee. They hear of a mesmerist in town and on visiting him Hester is soon walking much better. Hester begs him to teach her his skills and in time she soon becomes more
Rohase Piercy
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another gem from Barbara Ewing. This lovely story of two middle-aged ladies, Cordelia Preston and Rillie (Amaryllis) Spoons - former actresses who set themselves up in business as a 'Phreno-Mesmerist' and assistant to stave off the workhouse and then find that most of their young lady clients are really looking for advice about the 'gentle intricacies of the wedding night' - is both thoroughly researched and utterly convincing. Ewing appears to know the Victorian Era like the back of her hand - ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cordelia Preston, the "mesmerist" of the title, is an actress of a "certain age"--long past the ingenue roles, certainly, but not willing to settle for those of hag and crone. Instead, she sets up shop as a mesmerist, and discovers that she has, in fact, some skill in helping people. Unfortunately, Cordelia also as a past--she was once the mistress of a powerful aristocrat, and bore him three children--and this secret comes to haunt her with a vengeance.

Really, this book has it all: family
Robert Hepple
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 2007, 'The Mesmerist' is a novel set in early 19th century London. The main characters are a pair of out of work actresses 'of a certain age' who set up in business as a 'Lady Phreno-Mesmerist' and assistant. Whilst the main subject offers interest enough, the plot includes such 19th century gems as family saga, class distinction, fallen women, and murder in a tale that veers from belly-laugh humour to extreme sadness. Hugely entertaining from start to finish.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightful, dark and devious. 19th Century London, two out of work actresses turn to the trade of mesmerism. A dark and distant past. A murder. What is not to like here? It is beautifully written and carries you along gently and violently in equal measure. Apart from a quiet lull in the middle of the book I was indeed mesmerised by the book and look forward to reading the sequel.
Bloss ♡
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I got this for $1 at the bookshop and because of this, was a bit wary.

After a slow start, however, I was engrossed and entertained by this novel. The beginning is really slow and I almost gave up on it but I caution readers to press on!
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Romped along fairly entertainingly for the most part, with a fair amount of tragedy too.
Sana Merchant
Dec 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
I couldn’t read it anymore.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Really enjoyed this book I cared about the female characters.
Isla Scott
I enjoyed this book mostly. I found it to drag a bit towards the end - I was glad to finish it but I enjoyed most of it. It features some interesting characters and there are one or two plot twists that kept me guessing. Its quite descriptive but not in a long and unnecessary way, in a good way.
A terrific story of a woman on her own, with few prospects in Victorian-era London who nevertheless manages to make an independant life for herself and her family.

This was a really engaging, well written story with almost all the main characters being plucky, determined strong women who manage to overcome all sorts of difficulties, tragedies and bad luck to build a good life.

Miss Cordelia Preston starts out in life as the daughter of an actress, and eventually, as she has only her mother and her
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love love love Barbara Ewing - and nothing in this book detracts from that. She has the incredible and enviable ability to weave a seemingly simple story among the bold images of a giant and complex tapestry. Her attention to detail and historical accuracy in all her novels, whether set in 1950s NZ or cholera-infested London, are so well woven into her stories they always seem they could have been written in the time they were set.
I was dubious about the subject matter of The Mesmerist, as
Levent Mollamustafaoglu
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a nice surprise! I picked up this book randomly from the library and it turned out to be an enormously complex tale taking place in 19th Century London. Cordelia Preston is an aspiring actress trying to get some parts in recent plays and surviving in an environment that is austere for women.

She meets a Welsh Lord and they fall in love with each other. However, actresses not being accepted as respectable members of the society, Lord Ellis would never marry her. She is very much surprised
Kerry Hennigan
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! Barbara Ewing’s tale of London by gaslight is an engrossing combination of historical fiction, humour and murder.

Former actresses Cordelia and Rillie, set themselves up in business in a basement in Bloomsbury. In Victorian England this is not only something of a novelty, but a scandal. Cordelia is a phreno-mesmerist – she judges character by the bumps on the heads of her customers and becomes sought after as an advisor in marital matters for innocent young women approaching
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-stars
I didn't know what to expect from the book and I just pick it from a bookstore because I like the book cover. The story was not very interesting for me but I like that the author research in details about the particular time the story is taking place. This made the story for me very realistic and it was easier for me to imagine how people lived back then. After this book I feel lucky that women were able to fight and gain equal rights with men. I was touch with each personal story of the women ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Set in the early 1800s this is the story about Cordelia and her friend Rilley - 2 down and out actresses who come up with a scheme to make money - Cordelia will become a Mesmerist, swathe herself in bright and exotic scarves and help people with their pain, her Aunt Hester could do it so she would too. A slow moving story but filled with beautiful characters and humourous moments. There is a murder in the 2nd half of the book so the tempo picks up a bit. Some tragedy comes into Cordelia's life ...more
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Barbara Ewing is a UK-based actress, playwright and novelist. Born in New Zealand, she graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a BA in English and Maori before moving to Britain in 1965 to train as an actress at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in London.

She made her film debut in the horror film 'Torture Garden' (1967) for Amicus Productions, followed by 'Dracula Has Risen

Other books in the series

The Mesmerist (2 books)
  • The Circus of Ghosts (The Mesmerist, #2)