The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby #Review

Cora Burns Cover

To believe in her future, she must uncover her past…

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

‘Even at its darkest it is beautifully written, the research is meticulous and the complex Cora makes a flawed but affecting heroine. A great historical novel with bite’ – Sunday Mirror

‘Kirby writes with skill and gusto’ – Times

‘This richly woven Gothic tale is an atmospheric treat’ – Heat Magazine

‘Perfect for fans of Sarah Waters, this book took me into Cora’s world so expertly I experienced it with every sense’ – Cass Green, author of The Woman Next DoorIn A Cottage In A WoodDon’t You Cry

The Conviction of Cora Burns is a striking debut. Rich in gothic darkness and period detail, the brutality of Victorian Britain is exquisitely drawn. A beautifully-written story which enveloped me from first page to last’ – Amanda Jennings, author of Cliff House and In Her Wake


Today I’m reposting my review to celebrate the publication of the  paperback of The Conviction of Cora Burns. The ebook is on offer at 99p until the 10th of November as part of the celebrations. 


I would like to thank the author and publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

At its heart The Conviction of Cora Burns is a complex main character, Cora herself, who even at her most disturbing is facinating. She is an incredible creation, full of both light and dark.  To describe her as a violent misfit, does her an injustice, because the layers of her character, slowly revealed to us, shows she is both good and troubled. It makes for a compulsive read, when all you can think about is getting back to the book and finding out what really makes Cora tick.

Besides having such wonderful main character, we have an exquisitely written dark gothic drama. It is hard to imagine that this is a debut novel, so beautifully is it written and so powerful and emotional the story depicted.  I experienced an incredible range of emotions reading this tale from sadness to joy, from anger to loss, that it left me feeling a little bereft when it was finished.  It has a bite, this is not a cosy drama, it peels away the layers from Victorian society, exposing the seedier side of its obsession with science and attitudes to crime and punishment.  The atmosphere she creates made me feel that I was there, caught up in Cora’s nightmare and her search for answers about her childhood, as she pursues a path, that I prayed would not reflect the darkness that enveloped her past.

The writer made me care deeply that redemption is possible for any of the characters, but especially for Cora herself. She also while entertaining me with a story full of secrets and reveals, made me think about what leads some to violence, as a reaction to life and experiences.  Is it nature or nurture, was Cora born with the anger within her or had life in the jail and the workhouse created and shaped her.  I also loved how she took this myth of Victorian society as moral and forward thinking and created a story that took me as a reader down below ‘polite society’ and revealed the hidden nightmare of poverty and exploitation.  It gripped me as a reader and when finished, I wanted to take another journey with the writer, who meticulous research created a world so real, it felt that by stepping into its pages we too had walked back into the past.

This book is definitely going to be among my recommended reads for 2019.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author

Carolyn Kirby Author Pic

Originally from Sunderland in the UK, Carolyn studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel, The Conviction of Cora Burns has achieved success in a range of competitions including as winner of the Bluepencilagency Award and as finalist in the Mslexia Novel Competition. It was chosen as a historical fiction book of the month by The Times in March 2019.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire. 

You can follow the author on her FacebookTwitter and her Website.

Ebook promo

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