The Conviction of Cora Burns -Carolyn Kirby – book review

Who is Cora Burns? Motherless, fatherless, brought up in an institution, deprived of love, Cora hasn’t had a great start in life, but there’s something in her that keeps on going – and she’s smart. She’s not always good, she’s not exactly nice, but there’s something compelling about her, so that you will her on. Maybe it’s the fact that she is capable of self-reflection? You watch her gradually learn about herself and how to school herself as you move through the book.

There’s a lot in here, touched on very lightly. The main thread is the argument between nature and nurture – biology and experience. Cora personifies this, but there are also two men of science, whose voices we hear, who are finding their own ways of looking at this.

There a lot of books with strong, feisty female leads set in the late 19th century,and this book sits on that shelf. Cora, however, takes things just a little further, and you are aware that there is something dangerous in her. The other thing that I was really impressed by was the depiction of poverty, and the depiction of Cora’s complete ignorance about so many things. The odds are really stacked against her. She is given a job as a scullery maid, but even here there are things that are completely out of her experience. She is a very believable mixture of ignorant and smart. There is a lot of casual exploitation, and the contrasting attitude of the “men of science” to the poor is fascinating. There are also moments of kindness, and they offer hope.

I hope this book does well. I really enjoyed reading it. I read it through the Netgalley, so thank you to them.

About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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2 Responses to The Conviction of Cora Burns -Carolyn Kirby – book review

  1. What a fabulous thoughtful review, Sarah – thank you! I am so pleased that you found those important points of light within the darker tones of the story.

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