Monday, 26 March 2012

March's E-book: The Curiosity Cabinet by Catherine Czerskawa

If you like well-written romantic fiction with a happy ending, hunky heroes, spectacular scenery and a historical backdrop, then you can’t do better than Catherine Czerkawska’s Curiosity Cabinet.  John Burnside thought so too, when he selected the novel for the Dundee Book Prize.

The cabinet in question is on display in a hotel on Garve - one of Scotland’s more remote islands where Gaelic is still spoken and the distant past still feels relatively recent.  No one knows where the cabinet and its intriguing contents have come from, but Alys - desperately looking for tranquility while her small son holidays elsewhere with her former husband and his new wife - is fascinated by it and determined to find out.  

Alys had been to the island as a child.  She and her brother had made friends with a boy called Donal who was around the same age.  Alys is surprised to find that he’s still there, and his family own the cabinet. There's an instant attraction between the two, but Alys has been badly mauled by the breakdown of her marriage and Donal is also elusive.

In a parallel story, several hundred years earlier,  the young Henrietta has been snatched from her Edinburgh home, leaving behind her baby son, and taken to the island of Garve where she is put into the custody of Manus McNeill - laird of the isle.  Initially distraught with grief for the loss of her child, she gradually begins to make sense of her situation and construct a new life for herself.  She is both attracted and repulsed by her captor.

The story of the Curiosity Cabinet and the part it plays in the lives of Henrietta and Alys is a very good read - the descriptions of the wild landscape are particularly vivid.  It’s what’s referred to as ‘a page turner’ and highly recommended in the romantic fiction category.   I wasn’t too sure about the way everything worked out so conveniently for everyone at the end - but that’s only cynical me - most people will love it!


  1. Ah thanks for such a lovely review! I do take your point about the ending - but I suppose (without including any spoilers)I wanted the unresolved tragedies of the past to be resolved in some way in the present - if you see what I mean. But I suspect Bird of Passage or The Amber Heart might appeal more...more 'meat' to them!

  2. Thanks for understanding Catherine. I suppose I want that illusion of reality, where things don't pan out so neatly!