ISBN-13: 9780062379313
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 2016
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Library 

I had read Emily Arsenault's What Strange Creatures a while back and enjoyed it. Thus, when I knew she has a new releases out I knew I have to read it. 

Unlike What Strange Creatures, The Evening Spider has a mix of psychological suspense and historic true crime, and most of all it has bits of a supernatural element in it. Told from two perspectives between the past and the present, this is a story of two women who face the challenges of early motherhood and unravelling the truths surrounding their lives. 

Frances Barnett, the woman from the 19th century, is kept in Northampton Lunatic Hospital by her family members when they suspected the strain of her pregnancy and the birth of her child may have impaired her sanity. Before her isolation at the hospital, Frances devotes her attention by following a local murder trial when her postpartum experience didn't hit her. Frances is not really someone who would take on a wifely role after her marriage to Matthew Barnett, an attorney who is then working on a big murder case. Aside from her husband's case, Frances is also very interested in another murder case that involves a clergyman murdering a young woman, Mary Stannard. Frances' interest might seemed weird but she is more of a science and logic person than anything else. Before her marriage, she would use her twin brother's microscope and they would exchange conversations relating to science and any other logical topics they find interesting. However, the Mary Stannard murder must have got on to her because she finds herself at a stage of obsession with the details of the murder. 

Back to the present in 2014, Abby Bernacki is adjusting her new role as a mother to baby Lucy, who is only five months old. She suspects there is a supernatural influence which might be inhabiting their house because there are times she hears some strange 'shhhing' sounds coming from Lucy's room and especially over Lucy's unexplained bruised injury. Abby is set to find out the history of their house, and soon finds herself stumbling upon the time-worn journal of Frances Barnett. From there, Abby begins to piece the puzzle of Frances' past to her hospitalization days and ultimately discovers something (including her own) which surprise us all. 

The Evening Spider has a compelling storyline but what drawn me to this tale is it has a gothic, creepy feeling the more I flipped through the pages. Both Frances and Abby may seemed like unsettling characters and the more I read about them, it stuck me that they are quite similar in some circumstances; both face some challenges being new mothers and are doubtful of themselves. I was also especially drawn to Frances' journal; her recount of the events happened were sad, harrowing and horrific at some points. Thus it is Frances' story which most fascinated me but that doesn't mean Abby's story is weak either. It is just that their life experiences are different but their motherhood roles are what intertwined in this story. I couldn't say I was entirely satisfied with the ending, but in my opinion it is quite fitting to the overall melancholy feel of the story. 

16 Responses
  1. Kay Says:

    I'm planning on reading this one, based on your review and also Wendy's. I like the dual timeline story. Looking forward to it.

  2. Iliana Says:

    Great review! I like that this mixes journal entries - I'm always a sucker for those.

  3. I like this author and I'm waiting for this one from the library - sounds good.

  4. jenclair Says:

    I remember reading something about the Mary Stannard murder somewhere. This sounds like an intense read!

  5. Marce Says:

    I enjoy gothic reads also but don't read them often. Something about your review made me think of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

  6. Frances's story most intrigued me too, Melody--although I agree that Abby's was good too. I feel so bad for Frances. To be a woman in those times, especially one who is smart and curious and interested in the sciences must have been so difficult.

  7. Melody Says:

    Kay - I like the dual timeline story too; in fact I'm a sucker for books like that. :-)

  8. Melody Says:

    Iliana - Thank you, Iliana! Yes, journal entries is another favourite of mine, too. :-)

  9. Melody Says:

    Diane - I hope you'll get that library copy soon and that you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

  10. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - There's this brief mention of the Mary Stannard murder at the author's note which fascinated me. I didn't know it is a true event, and that murder sounds horrific to me!

  11. Melody Says:

    Marce - I'm always in search for more gothic books. ;-) Oh, Rebecca was a wonderful read and a great classic, too!

  12. Melody Says:

    Wendy - I felt sorry for both women, especially Frances. I agree to be a woman in that period isn't easy, and they are so very often misunderstood by the society, too. I'm glad time has changed for the women now; I couldn't imagine living under that time period.

  13. Yay, I'm glad you liked it so much. I just got a copy from the library, so hopefully I can start it soon. Great review!

  14. Melody Says:

    Diana - Thank you, Diana! I'm glad you got a copy from the library! Hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did! :-)

  15. The Bookworm Says:

    The Evening Spider sounds like a good one, I like stories with a gothic feel to them. Great post!

  16. Melody Says:

    Naida - It was a great book! Very gothic and I loved it!

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