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Betsy Tobin

Betsy TobinBetsy Tobin was born in the U.S. and moved to England in 1989, where she now lives with her husband and children. Her first novel, Bone House, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Prize, and won the Herodotus Prize in the United States. Her other novels include The Bounce, Ice Land, and Crimson China. Crimson China was Radio 4 Book At Bedtime in the UK, and was short-listed for Epic Romantic Novel of the Year.

Ice Land: Neither great characters nor compelling plot

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Ice Land by Betsy Tobin

"This book is my love letter to Iceland and its people," writes Betsy Tobin in her afterword to Ice Land. And so it is. Tobin is at her best when describing the landscape of Iceland:
The day we met, I had flown deep into the central highlands, seeking a spot where I could be alone. I found it on a high desert plateau, where a hidden spring had forced its way up through the lava shield, forming an oasis. The water was a brilliant cobalt blue. It spread like fingers across the plateau, and all around it lay a bed of thick, luminous green moss.
Tobin's love of Iceland's unusual landscape is clear. Though her prose is spare compared to some, she brings the land's beauties to life in the reader's mind.

Tobin's minimalist style continues throughout Ic... Read More

More fantasy novels by Betsy Tobin

Betsy Tobin book reviews Bone House, The Bounce, Ice LandBone House — (2000) Publisher: In this stunning debut, Betsy Tobin spins a classic tale of gothic suspense. Immersing readers in Elizabethan England, she masterfully evokes a heady place where science and superstition walk hand-in-hand and sensuality and violence are masked by the merest veneer of gentility… some people are the center of their world, and others are the spokes. The center of one village was Dora, the great-bellied prostitute whose lush curves gave solace to men even as her compassion and honesty drew the company of women. So when Dora is found dead in an icy ravine, her loss impacts everyone. So, too, does it torment a young chambermaid at the Great House. Determined to discover the truth, she finds that Dora left behind many unanswered questions, along with a huge, slow-witted son, a boy of eleven trapped in a man’s body. The deeper she digs, the more the mystery of Dora’s life is revealed, until a terrible secret is laid bare.Betsy Tobin book reviews Bone House, The Bounce, Ice Land


The Bounce — (2002) Publisher: The Bounce is a masterpiece of lion-taming, cross-dressing, lost mothers and lost innocence, set in the glamorous and squalid world of the Victorian circus. Nineteen-year-old Nathan sails the Atlantic in search of the mother who abandoned him. He takes a job as a lion-tamer in a circus south of the Thames, where he meets Lulu, a celebrated rope-dancer with secrets; Nan, the orange-girl, haunted by her dead son and his menacing father; Queen, the lion on whom everything rests, and, at last, his mother — or is she his mother, after all? Like Bone House, The Bounce is pacy, darkly Gothic and powerfully evocative, but its setting and the characters elevate it to a new level: literary historical fiction at its spine-tingling, compelling best


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsCrimson China — (2011)  Publisher: “He glances over at her. Her shoulder length brown hair is matted with wet against the sides of her face, and there are dark circles under her eyes. He is uncertain of her age. Not young, he decides. Thirty? Forty? He finds it impossible to judge with foreigners. Her clothes are ordinary enough: jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a dark green pullover that now smells of wet wool. The enormous coat she was wearing lies in a sodden ball on the floor of the back seat. It was the coat he noticed first when she dragged him from the water: made of heavy black wool, it stretched down below her knees and was buttoned up to the neck. No one in their right mind would attempt to rescue a drowning man in such a coat…” On a freezing night in February, a woman wades into the waters of Morecambe Bay in a drunken bid to commit suicide. Braced for death, she finds herself instead saving a man’s life — a young Chinese cockle picker, one of the only survivors of a tragic mass drowning. For Wen – now missing, presumed dead — Angie provides an unexpected sanctuary. They share neither language nor experience, but she agrees to let him stay with her and ‘disappear’. Within a short time their unlikely pairing blossoms into something darkly passionate. But Wen’s past soon catches up with him. He is still in debt to the snakeheads who brought him out of China. And when his sister, Lili, travels to Britain in search of his memory, she unwittingly seals his fate.


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