#AuthorOfTheMonth: Kayte Nunn
From the bestselling author of The Botanist’s Daughter and The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant, comes The Silk House, a spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school harbouring a centuries-old secret… We were lucky enough to catch Kayte for a few quick questions about The Silk House.
AR: In three words, describe The Silk House to AusRom readers:
KN: Mysterious, atmospheric, ghostly.
The Silk House centres around the titular Silk House boarding school, a building with a mysterious past, and weaves together the stories of three women, past and present, all of whom have stories that intersect because of the Silk House. What was the inspiration for this story arc?
A few years ago I was at London’s V&A Museum, in my favourite place there, the costume gallery. I stopped in front of a luminous silk gown, woven in the 18th century and the pattern of which was designed by one of the few women working as such at the time, Anna-Maria Garthwaite. Later in the same trip, I was in my old home town and discovered that one of the buildings in the high street, originally home to an 18th century silk merchant, had recently been restored. I also discovered, rather later, that the building was rumoured to be haunted. There is a famous boarding school in that town, and it has taken over some of the buildings as boarding houses for its pupils. I began to imagine what might happen were the silk merchant’s house to be used in this way, perhaps for the first intake of girls.
The Silk House is garnering brilliant reviews, including peer reviews from Natasha Lester who refers to the book as “utterly spellbinding” and Joanna Nell who remarked, “I was torn between racing though the chapters as the story unfolded, and holding back to savour the beauty of the prose.”. What is it about The Silk House that endears itself to the reader?
I hope that The Silk House has a compelling mystery, combined with interesting characters, so that the reader is able to become quickly invested in the story and desperate to find out what happens. It also contains elements of witchcraft, haunting and herbalism, and looks at the position of women and how they are perceived and treated throughout the centuries.
What makes Australian romance fiction and storytelling in general unique?
There is a wonderfully strong community of writers in this country, of all genres, together with readers who are willing to support them by buying their books. In addition, Australians have a reputation of having a strong work ethic, and our publishing industry operates to an extremely high standard, both in terms of editing and marketing – it’s no surprise that so many Aussie writers are now being noticed globally.
The Silk House
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.
‘The stories of three fascinating women weave seamlessly together in this atmospheric book set against the sumptuous backdrop of the eighteenth-century silk trade. The titular Silk House is at once eerie and evocative as it leaves its mark on its inhabitants – and as its influence transcends time to create a mystery that is so compelling I found myself racing towards the final pages. Utterly spellbinding‘ NATASHA LESTER