In 1860s Britain there is nothing unusual in a man beating his wife. When George Hadley’s aggression triggers his own stroke and coma, his wife discovers all she thinks of as hers is to pass to her young son Toby. Adelaide seems as powerless as her ladies’ maid, Sobriety.
Beyond the strictures of domestic and social expectation, these two women of different class remake the rules to discover what lies beneath the drapes and tassels of Victorian Britain. Life, they find, is urgent, exciting… but cheap. Even as they adventure into alleyways, a tunnel and a séance, their innocence is gone.
What Empty Things Are These is about what happens to women who look into the face of this newly industrialized and still patriarchal age. Change is everywhere, exhilarating, corrupt, terrifying. Fraud and farce abound. Spiritualists prey on the confused; women are encased in clothing that imply both modesty and sexuality; the powerful prey upon the weak. Adelaide and Sobriety, in their way, show us that every era has secrets that must be uncovered for real social progress.
But the truth of the age is encapsulated for them, in the underlying tale of the vulnerable urchin girl, the nameless victim of this pitiless society.
“What Empty Things Are These is an exquisite story of friendship across class, the realisation of self worth, and the delicate emergence of female solidarity in the face of society’s disdain. Crozier has created a glorious Victorian London that creaks and groans and gasps in its smoky, damp darkness and stifling corsetry. A stunning debut and a triumph of imagination and historical voice.”
– Alison Goodman, NYT bestselling author of Eon, Eona and The Dark Days Club series.
“Elegant, witty and sharply insightful, What Empty Things Are These is a mid-Victorian riff on the intellectual and actual freedom of women – one that cleverly begs the question of what has, and what hasn’t, changed today.”
– Kim Kelly, author of the novels Black Diamonds, This Red Earth, The Blue Mile, Paper Daisies, Wild Chicory and Jewel Sea