Book Review: The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

The Silk House…

About the Book:

Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret by the bestselling author of THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER

Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine.

In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.

In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. Arriving in the market town of Oxleigh, she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author’s background, THE SILK HOUSE is the exceptional new gothic mystery by Kayte Nunn.

My Thoughts:

‘I’m interested in persecution ideologies – specifically witchcraft in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.’

Oh yes…so am I! Another novel that seems as though it has been perfectly tailored just for me. Kayte Nunn is an author of exceptional talent. I would put her on a par with Kate Morton in terms of creating a vivid atmosphere, the depth and layering of the story, and of course, bringing those historical settings to life. I am a big, long-time fan of Kate Morton, so I mean this as a compliment. Each of Kayte Nunn’s novels seem flawless, and then she brings the next one out and you think, this is her best yet, and then she does it all over again, just continuing to go from strength to strength. Each of her three works of historical fiction have been vastly different from each other, truly unique stories, and yet they are united in a common framework: female agency, specifically, the lack of it within a woman’s life throughout different periods in history and across the different social and economic classes. It’s a theme she demonstrates throughout her narratives with blinding precision.

‘Here they were in a small back garden, stars beginning to pinprick the sky, the moon full and luminous. Five women holding hands in a circle in a garden after dark. In another time, they would have been burned at the stake for less.’

I am very partial to a bit of spooky in a story, particularly the kind that involves an old house with a myriad of secrets whispering from its walls and a reputation as being haunted.

‘Dodgy electrics, doors unlocking themselves and a possible infestation, not to mention the strange dream: Thea began to worry that something was very wrong with the house.’

‘They say the house wants something. Or wants to be rid of something.’

And then there’s the witch angle, one of my favourites, as mentioned above. Kayte explores this through her character’s talent as a herbalist combined with a highly attuned second ‘sight’.

‘The plans showed the gardens , including a sketch of the parterre garden in the shape of a pentacle. A pentacle, she was well aware, was a shape linked with witchcraft, a symbol alleged to be employed in magical evocation, to foretell the future, or to have power over the devil , though it was also often associated with the element of earth. So, it had been there from the very beginning.’

This is a dual timeline narrative, present day setting along with the late 1700s, but told with three distinct female voices. The way their stories intersected was masterful and I was completely enthralled with this novel, devouring it over the course of one (very long) night. It is steeped in atmosphere (think Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Bone China) and the sense of foreboding that Kayte builds throughout is utterly gripping. You just know you’re headed for something shocking, but it still catches you by surprise. The blend of herbology, weaving, and witchcraft, along with the strong feminist themes, makes this novel an absolute must read for any lover of gothic historical fiction. Brilliant, enthralling, and utterly perfect to curl up with for some winter reading. Preferably on a dark, stormy night.


Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley of The Silk House.

About the Author:

Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor, and the author of four previous novels, including the international bestselling The Botanist’s Daughter and The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant. The Silk House is loosely based on a house that still stands, in the town in England where she grew up. Kayte now lives in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. You can find Kayte at

The Silk House
Published by Hachette Australia
Released 30th June 2020

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

  1. Pingback: Historical Fiction Round Up: Autumn Edition 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

  2. Oh, this sounds really good too. I still have yet to read her first one, I can’t keep up. Adding this to the TBR list for the daughter and for myself, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now that I’ve published my review and interview, I just came by to enjoy your thoughts on The Silk House. Glad you enjoyed it and I agree with the Kate Morton reference too. We have a number of awesome Australian authors by the name of Kate: Kate Morton, Kate Forsyth and Kayte Nunn 😀 You can include Kate Grenville in the list too, but I haven’t read any of her books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Top 20 for 2020 – Books to gift this Christmas | Theresa Smith Writes

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