The Goddess and the Thief

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The Goddess and the Thief, Essie Fox, book reviewAlice Willoughby’s mother died soon after she was born, but she had a happy childhood in 19th century India with her beloved ayah, until she was 8, when her father decided to send her home to live with her aunt Mercy in Windsor. Shortly afterwards, he died too.

Alice’s reactions to England contained echoes of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s stories of girls brought up in India and sent back to England, The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. To Alice, Windsor seems damp, dreary and grey compared to India with its beautiful vibrant colours. She finds consolation playing with Mercy’s jewellery, silks and other clothes while her aunt is out, discovering mysterious mementoes of a past that Mercy refuses to talk about. Mercy decides that her orphan niece needs to earn her keep by assisting her in her work as a medium. Alice is uncomfortable with the deception and trickery involved. Then the sinister Lucian Tilsbury visits, claiming to have met Alice’s father in India and to be offering his condolences. He later brings another visitor, Prince Duleep, seeking Alice’s help to recover the Koh I Noor diamond, a strand of the novel which draws on a true story, and a real historical person. Another very famous person has a cameo role.

Interwoven with Alice’s story, there are some passages from the viewpoint of other characters, like Mercy and Tilsbury, which simply confirm what we learn in the course of the novel and do not add much. Memories of India and some Indian legends do add more colour.

The Goddess and the Thief is an absorbing and atmospheric read, with lots of twists and turns, but I was slightly disappointed. Compared to the heroines of Fox’s first two novels, The Somnambulist and Elijah’s Mermaid, Alice seemed a bit inconsistent – sometimes she was quite perceptive but at other times she seemed rather naïve. I found it hard to suspend my disbelief in some of the twists and turns. Lucian Tilsbury was so well drawn as a creep, I found it hard to accept the suggestion that Alice might view him as anything else later on.

The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox
Published by Orion, December 2013
Thank you to the publishers for sending a review copy of this book.

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Goddess and the Thief, The
by Essie Fox

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