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[Book Review] The Devil In The Corner By Patricia Elliot & Devil Bean Coffee Co. Fire N Brimstone

“How can the devil be stopped when he lives inside you?”

The Devil In The Corner BY Patricia ElliotTitle: The Devil In The Corner
Series: Standalone
Author: Patricia Elliot
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books / Hodder Children’s Books
Publication date: March 6th 2014
Page Count: 400 pages
Age Rating: Young Adult and Up
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: The Devil In The Corner

A gorgeously gothic historical tale from the author of THE PIMPERNELLES

Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud’s emerging friendships with the staff and locals – especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.

Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continues to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug – so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone – or something – plotting her demise?

Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?

My Review

The Devil In The Corner, written in the Victorian gothic style, is a tale of madness, mystery, and machinations.

Maud, an ex-governess with a sad past and a laudanum addiction, comes to live at Windward House with a heretofore unknown relation. This relation, her estranged uncle’s stepdaughter, Juliana, is chronically unwell with a mysterious illness. Juliana wishes for Maud to be akin to a companion and nursemaid to help ease her suffering, holding the promise of her will over Maud’s head to keep her under her thumb and dancing to her tune as well as isolated from forming bonds with other people. Maud finds relief from her cousins stifling restrictions and the unsettling dread she feels at Windward House in a budding, forbidden relationship with John, an artist brought in from London to restore a painting found in the church. But Maud isn’t the only one with eyes for John; Edie, the young daughter of Juliana’s cook, is determined to come between the two.

With each part of this three part tale, circumstances become more and more unbearable for Maud. Walls are thrown up between her and what she wants, causing Maud’s addiction to her beloved laudanum drops to grow, all the while Juliana get sicker and more insufferable and Edie’s manipulations of the situation take a dark turn – until finally, fatally, events comes to a tragic head.

The tagline to this story is: How can the devil be stopped when he lives inside you? I think this is a fair indicator of the motivations seen throughout this book – Juliana, Edie,  and even Maud from time to time, all seem to have a little bit of the devil inside them. But then again, don’t we all sometimes when it comes to getting what we want?

Elliot does a superb job of writing characters that live on a razor edge between sympathetic and unlikable. On the one hand, their motivations are plain to see and empathize with (the want of love, money, companionship, security), but the way they go about securing these things are selfish and self-serving.

The book is told through the first person narratives of Maud and John. Maud is an unreliable narrator, exhibiting signs of paranoia and disassociation early on that only get worse as the book progresses. John stands in complete opposition to Maud, and indeed most of the other characters, as he is self-sacrificing and completely oblivious to the motivations of others, only seeing the good in people – a characteristic which in the end leads to much heartache all around.

It’s a slow burn of a book; I didn’t really get into it until Part 3. I kept putting it down (I seem to be short of patience as of late), but I also kept picking it back up – and I’m glad I did because this book finishes strong in those last chapters.

All in all, I would recommend this book to lovers of gothic, historical books and/or books with a Victorian setting. As a lover of all those things, I ended up very much enjoying The Devil In The Corner.

Devil Bean Coffee Co. Fire N Brimstone – dark and smoky, this blend reminds me of the Doom painting John is restoring in the church. The painting is full of purposely frightening imagery of people being tried on Judgment Day and devils taking away the damned. The image terrifies poor, fragile Maud and wreaks havoc with her psyche, to the point that she begins to see and suspect devils everywhere (it could be argued the whole town is affected this way as well).

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