|Content warnings: Poisoning, ideation, vomitingYellow Jessamine starts as a boat belonging to Evelyn Perdanu’s shipping company arrives home several people get sick with a mysterious illness. She’s already developed a bit of a reputation with her garden and tragic past, but it’s a race against transmission as the afflicted have one obsession: Evelyn.
Paranoid is one word to describe Evelyn. The way the fears, both self-inflicted and external, permeate the page creates its own kind of atmosphere. It adds to the gothic qualities of the novel, with the mourning veils, sprawling mansion, haunted histories, and the burden of an empire. There is also a sense of cycles that stretches from beginning to end that’s very well executed, but to say anything more than that, would be spoilers.
I really enjoyed Evelyn’s characterization beyond the paranoia. She has some clear regrets and an agenda that isn’t just her own survival. In addition, her expertise on poisons and medicines (and the balance between the two) fits and flows throughout the narrative and works double-duty as a means to set the mood. Plus, the love between Evelyn and Violetta is the kind of queer pining that fits the mood of these kinds of deadly, melancholic works.
An excellent entry into the gothic literature canon, with some queer pining throughout.