Bone House

Bone House

Gothic, elegant, and suspenseful, Bone House vividly evokes seventeenth-century rural England. It is the tale of two women. One is Dora -- large, voluptuous, and charismatic -- a prostitute to whom men are drawn for pleasure, women for friendship. Her strange death in an icy ravine affects everyone in the tiny village: her enormous, slow-minded son; an embittered midwife; the hunchbacked lord of the manor; his decaying mother; and an itin- erant portrait painter, whose arrival in the village unearths secrets and passions beyond anyone's expectations.
The other -- young, slight, and solitary -- is a dutiful chambermaid to the mistress of the manor until Dora's accident begins to distract her from her daily tasks. Her quest to uncover the truth about the prostitute's mysterious life and sudden death leads her to a terrible discovery, and the beginnings of a future.
A novel about murder, flesh, fertility, desire, medicine, and art, Bone House transports readers to stratified Elizabethan England, where the body -- or "bone house" -- had a primary role in deter-mining one's destiny. Sensual, sophisticated, and fiercely compelling, this is an uncommonly assured debut.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743213769 | 
  • May 2001
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Chapter One

Her death has made us numb. Dora, the great-bellied woman, lies frozen in the ground. And like some part we've lost to frostbite, our minds still reach for her. The men of the village wear a wandering look in their eyes. They forget their work, leave their tools lying idle, drink to excess, then roam like dogs until they drop in the mud. Even the women are uneasy, for though she was one of us, we could never hope to fill her shoes. The great-bellied woman, with her door-wide hips and plate-sized breasts, was more woman than we could ever be. We even envied her belly: her great, laden belly, filled with the fruits of her... see more

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