The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

Caroline Lea sets her novel of intrigue and deception against the cold backdrop of an isolated rural community in 1686 Iceland. The novel follows Rosa after she agrees to marry a wealthy stranger. Moving to his village, away from everything and everyone she knows, she longs for companionship and a home. Instead, Rosa finds a township full of mistrust and gossip, a husband who is detached, a locked room, and tales of how his last wife, Anna, mysteriously disappeared. With no one to confide in, Rosa attempts to patch together the suspicious villagers’ conflicting hearsay accounts to figure out what did happen to Anna and what may happen to herself.

As the novel unfolds, I found myself assuming that I knew exactly what was going to happen. Yet I was mistaken and tripped a couple of times on the unforeseen twists that dotted the pages. Lea masterfully controlled the information necessary to unpack the mystery and kept key details hidden until the precise moment they became essential. All the characters have secrets and motivation both to keep quiet and to dispel lies wherever possible, making it difficult to discover the truth. Like Rosa, I felt isolated and needed to know exactly what happened which kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could.

This is a great historical mystery that uses Iceland’s pastoral landscape to its advantage. As the snow builds so does the mystery, and it is only when the ice melts that the truth is revealed. If you loved Hananh Kent’s Burial Rights, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, you will enjoy The Glass Woman.

Rose Maurice is from Readings State Library Victoria.