‘To believe in her future, she must uncover her past’
[ About the Book ]
Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.
Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood.
Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?
[ My Review ]
The Conviction of Cora Burns is the debut novel from Carolyn Kirby. Just published on 21st March by No Exit Press, it is described as ‘a stunning debut that takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts’ I am delighted to be joining the blog tour with my review for you all today and would like to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me.
Historical fiction is always a very informative genre but I think Carolyn Kirby takes it one step further as we explore the story of Cora Burn, using case works and studies by eminent, although fictional, medical professionals of the time. Their thoughts are scattered in document style, like those of a medical journal, throughout the book, bringing a real authenticity to the case of Cora Burns.
So who was Cora Burns? That in itself is a very difficult question to answer. Born in a gaol to a mother who was imprisoned there at the time, Cora grew up moving between institutions, witnessing events that no young girl should be exposed to at such a young age. Her experiences impacted her life greatly, never having lived in an environment of warmth and love. When Cora finally reached the age to depart the institutional setting, she was confused, torn between her reality and her thoughts. She was given an opportunity of work in the home of a prominent scientist and, although skeptical about it, Cora had very little choice but to accept. This was no ordinary household though and Cora was soon faced with more than one difficult situation to handle. Her approach to dealing with these obstacles was very heavily influenced by her history but the question really being asked throughout the book is within the concept of nature versus nurture. Was Cora inevitably going to react as she did or could other external influences have directed her to an alternative outcome?
The Conviction of Cora Burns is quite a fascinating read, at times reading like an official study in human behaviour. The sense of time and place is brilliantly portrayed throughout the novel, giving the reader a real experience of life in the Victorian era. The poverty, the hunger, the smells, the fears, all described with a captivating narrative. There is a Gothic element to Cora’s story, adding to the intrigue and atmosphere of the tale.
The Conviction of Cora Burns is the story of a young woman who has various sides to her personality. She is wicked, violent and quite fierce yet also prone to bouts of melancholy and upset. Cora Burns is confused and as the years pass, her judgement is clouded and her memories blurred. Cora Burns is a tragic figure, a person surrounded by heartbreak and sorrow, a person you cannot but feel was dealt a very tough hand, one that was sure to affect her approach to life.
The Conviction of Cora Burns is a compelling tale, one that will pull at your heart-strings. A very insightful and intelligent debut, a must for all lovers of Victorian history and for all historical fiction buffs.
[ Bio ]
Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford before working for social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.
Her debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber Academy in London. The novel has achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the 2017 Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.
Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.
Twitter ~ @novelcarolyn