From the author of Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons, Bitter Orange is a seductive psychological portrait—a keyhole into the dangers of longing and how far a woman might go to escape her past.
From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them―Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.
To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.
But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.
“Bitter Orange twists and bends, arouses and agitates, like a seductive nightmare. . . . With sensations so alive on the page, you’re constantly kept on your toes, attuned to the mania. You’ll ask, beguiled: What’s really going on here?”
“In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. . . . An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review
“Fuller is a master of propulsive action, making the ground spin as each unreliable narrator takes center stage. Every measured sentence builds on itself with the crumbling estate providing the saturated backdrop for this ultimately macabre tale. [Bitter Orange] offers a gripping and unsettling look at the ugly side of extreme need and the desperate measures taken in the name of love.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“Cannily releasing clues on the way to an explosive finale, Fuller moves fluidly between the time of the story and a period 20 years later . . . The lush setting and remarkable characters make for an immersive mystery.”
“English mansion? Check. Dazzling couple? Check. Yearning outsider? Now you have all the ingredients for a psychological powder keg, ready to explode during the summer of ’69.”
“Fuller is a master of the quietly eerie; she’s excellent at creating an aura of pervasive dread—and sustaining it till the very last page.”
“A twisty, thorny, darkly atmospheric page-turner.”
—Gabriel Tallent, author of My Absolute Darling
“Like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Bitter Orange sings, enchants, haunts. If not for Claire Fuller’s stunning language and mastery of control, I’d have succumbed to the temptation to blaze through these pages just to see how the suspense resolves. A beautiful novel.”
—Daniel Magariel, author of One of the Boys
“A rich, dark pressure cooker of a novel that simmers with slow heat and suppressed tension.”
—Ruth Ware, author of The Woman in Cabin 10
“Claire Fuller is such an elegant writer and this book is incredibly atmospheric, vivid, and intriguing. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t reading a forgotten classic.”
—Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing
“A book that will make you late for work, will compel you to cancel plans.”
—Elizabeth Willis, Avid Bookshop
“Bitter Orange represents the very best of literary mystery.”
—Joanne Berg, Mystery to Me
“Bitter Orange is an enticing journey down the rabbit hole of destructive relationships with a twist at the end that is totally shocking! My seduction began at page one!”
—Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette