Strands of Bronze and Gold, by Jane Nickerson

In case you were wondering, we didn't actually plan on reviewing two books about twisted relationships between hyper-controlling men and vulnerable young girls this week. This pairing was pure serendipity—creepy serendipity, if that's not a contradiction in terms.

Set in the antebellum South, Jane Nickerson's Strands of Bronze and Gold is the story of 17-year-old Sophie, who is shipped off to live with her mysterious godfather, Bernard de Cressac, after her father dies. Sophie is nervous about leaving her siblings, but poverty and a lack of connections leaves her with no choice but to accept de Cressac's offer to move into his isolated but lavish home—a former French abbey reconstructed in the wilds of Mississippi. Her charming, handsome godfather initially seems intent on spoiling Sophie rotten, but his interest in her almost immediately shifts from avuncular to sexual and possessive, and his brief flashes of depression turn into explosive and terrifying temper tantrums.

Most of Nickerson's novel is taken directly from Charles Perrault's “Bluebeard” folktale, but she sprinkles her plot with tidbits borrowed from other gothic classics, too: Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, and Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting. (Sadly, the “innocent young woman at the mercy of a seemingly-normal-but-oddly-secretive man” storyline turns up in plenty of nonfiction, too.) Nickerson, unsurprisingly, isn't in the same class as the authors listed above—her plot twists are obvious, and her heroine never speaks with in convincingly historical voice—but Strands of Bronze and Gold works nicely as an atmospheric, teen-friendly gateway drug to the world of gothic novels.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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