I finished this one the other night and I have to say it was not what I expected at all.
I picked this ARC up about a year ago because the premise intrigued me. Every time I went to pick a new book to read I decided I couldn’t remember why I’d picked it up and assumed it’d be a bit heavy going. When I finally picked it up I still wasn’t enthused but I very quickly changed my tune.
A lot of the reviews on Goodreads for this book criticize the pacing, saying it’s too slow, but I disagree. I found it moved along smoothly, lingering long enough to set the scene properly but not hurling information at you. It totally could have done because it is in fact inspired by true events. The Panacea Society was, for the most part, an exclusively female cult founded in the early 1900’s. While the author admits that she took liberties with the timeline as well as the main character, Grace is the only character who was entirely fictional.
Throughout the novel there are passages in bold text which you are told are extracts from genuine letters, documents, etc. Knowing the book is based on people and events that really happened changes the perspective with which you read it.
I’ve spent the last few days raving at friends about this book because it was that good. Definitely read it. You’ve got so much tension in there but not the kind that drives you crazy, and there’s instances where you mistrust Dilys’ point of view as the narrator. However that’s not to say the narrative is trying to lead you astray in some underhanded way. It’s written in the first person and Dilys, you soon realize, is mentally fragile; who wouldn’t be after their mother brainwashed and isolated them?
You spend the whole novel hoping Dilys is going to have an epiphany and at least want to escape.
In the last hundred pages you can see that light at the end of the tunnel but there are crazy ups and downs that leave you guessing until the last couple chapters. The conclusion is conveyed as naively as Dilys sees it except the clues are still there and you have an inkling, you don’t want to believe it so you hope that you’re jumping to conclusions but then you realize you’re not and it’s a beautiful suckerpunch in the feels.
As if that weren’t enough the author reveals in the notes what happened to the real Dilys. Too soon, man.