Where The Light Enters – by Sara Donati – independent book review – Historical Fiction (U.S.)

Since I absolutely loved The Gilded Hour and all its characters, I was eager to get my hands on this sequel, Where The Light Enters. But while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite measure up to the original. Awarded four stars on Goodreads. (To be fair, I listened to The Gilded Hour as an audiobook –which was exceptionally well done –and with this sequel I read the book.) If you decide to read this one, definitely read The Gilded Hour first.

Cousins and doctors, Anna and Sophie Savard, are once again the central characters. About a year has passed between books. Anna is happily settled in with her police detective/husband, Jack. And Sophie, newly widowed, is just returning from an extended stay in Europe. Anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock is still obnoxiously fighting to impose his vision of decency on the city. And there’s still plenty of prejudice against women who practice medicine. And the orphaned children Rosa, Lia, and Tonino make a reappearance.

The mystery begins with Jack and his partner Oscar working on several disappearance cases — primarily young women. Some are pool immigrants; others are among New York’s elite. I don’t want to give much away but both Anna and Sophie get involved. As does a young student physician, Elise, who is being mentored by the two Savards.

There are growing complexities to the case. Beyond missing persons, it touches on midwives, including Anna and Sophie’s own cousin. There’s kidnapping, drug addiction, sexual abuse, mental illness, and a notorious court case. All of this makes for a compelling read, all 650 pages of it.

I still loved the characters. And the book is a skillfully-constructed mystery. It was interesting how the author mixes newspaper clippings and other documents and reports into her narrative. They lend such a sense of authenticity. And clearly demonstrate that fake news is certainly NOT a new phenomenon.

Sara Donati (photo courtesy of Goodreads)

I think maybe I was disappointed because I didn’t have the same feeling as with the earlier novel — as if I’d time-traveled to New York City in the 1880s. This time, it was less about discovering the time period and more about the dark world that women turn to at that time, when they are unable to get the healthcare they need legally.

Nevertheless, this remains one of my favorite authors. More about Sara Donati.

You may be interested in my review of The Gilded Hour, the prequel to this novel.