The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Published: August 2016
Genre: young adult, historical fiction, gothic
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.
A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?
Katherine Randolph knows how to shoot, ride horses, and help out her guardians around the Virginia farm with her brother. But becoming an heiress and a lady in English society? Much harder than it looks. Just when things begin to look up after a ball held in her new home, Walthingham Hall, tragedy strikes Katherine in every respect. Her brother is murdered, her most trusted servant is shot, her dog is mangled, and something — or someone — is lurking around the estate. But no one believes Katherine’s accusations, and rumors of a Beast sound insanely plausible…
I was entertained more so than impressed, and that is perfectly fine. The book did its job! Gothic cliches abound in this one, particularly the romantic Gothic, and I ate it up with a spoon.
One of the biggest things I noticed about this book was the number of stark contrasts and dualities (hey, Gothic!). This begins in 1820s Virginia, and Katherine is a born and bred American girl. To travel to 1820s England, and reprise the role of an English heiress, is vastly different from what she’s used to. 1820s America and 1820s England are two very different realities and societies, class distinction aside. When Katherine arrived in England, she makes the brilliant observation that she belongs with the servants — not because she doesn’t feel like an heiress, but because she has the life skills and sensibilities most suited to the working class. Her identity lies with them, not in propriety, manners, and dull dinner parties.
One of the biggest tropes in the romantic Gothic is a series of suitors or love interests, even just passing fancies. Oh, Katherine. She has many. Only one is the stronghold throughout, but my gosh. The events of this book take place across two weeks (roughly), so this was a bit of an eyeroll. (I still loved it though. I’m a sucker for anything Gothic, even its cliches.)
What really kept me on the edge of my seat and nearly bumping this to four stars was the last 75 pages. The twist made me bite my nails in anticipation. Because it was thrown in here — no worries, the twist made sense! — I found it unexpected and wondered constantly what would happen next.
In short, I loved the cliches, albeit predictable, and found the mystery to be chilling and spooky. The writing was absolutely lovely to sink into. If you’re looking for a book to devour some autumn night, this is the one.
This book qualifies as book 9 of 10 library books in 2016.