Thursday 22 June 2023


Book review: The Other Side of Mrs Wood by Lucy Barker

Mrs Wood is one of the most famous and respected medium in Victorian London. She's been around for decades and her devoted patrons ensure that her seances continue to be popular. But her loyal followers are getting older and they won't be around forever to keep Mrs Wood in a job. Not only that, but many of her peers are unmasked as frauds so she has an added job of disassociating herself from anyone caught up in the scandals. And, as younger, more exciting mediums enter the stage, she knows she has to up her game considerably to stay relevant and celebrated. 

While Mrs Wood wouldn't go as far yet as to follow into the footsteps of the more showy and outrageous escapades of some of her American colleagues – she does freshen up her act by hiring a young protégé to spice things up. However, that's when her real problems begin...

Before reading The Other Side of Mrs Wood by Lucy Barker, I had no idea that mediums were a big part of high society in Victorian England – but now I'm obsessed! It's such an interesting thing to discover and it was fascinating to read how for many participants it threaded the line between fiction and reality; with some people being absolute believers that what happened at the seances was true, and others being completely in the know about the trickery yet still fully enjoying the experience and keeping up appearances.

I also loved how complex a lot of the swindling in the world of Victorian mediums was. Despite having the opportunity to look behind the curtain as a reader, the clever mechanics behind it all still lured me into a false sense of belief at times. That alone made for a great concept for a novel. 

At the same time, this book wasn't just an interesting, fictionalised history lesson. It was also incredibly gripping as it had a genuinely good mystery at its heart about the young protégé, Emmie, that joins Mrs Wood's team. Even after learning the real science behind mediums through Mrs Wood's work, I went back and forth between scepticism and complete belief about Emmie's psychic abilities – and her true intentions – with each turning page. 

The more I learned about Mrs Wood along the way, the less I should've cared for her as a character and yet I was rooting for her until the very end. Despite her flaws and often selfish tendencies, she became a real person on the page; one struggling to keep up with the changes happening around her and trying her best to stay relevant and stay true to herself in the only way she knew how. And this, regardless of the unique setting, felt very genuine and relatable. 

The Other Side of Mrs Wood was an absolute riot of a read. The world of mediums in Victorian times makes for an incredibly fascinating kick-off point for a story. Author Lucy Barker has layered this unique concept with tons of other good stuff for readers to dig into; from Mrs Wood's dubious past to Emmie's secrets – and everything in between. This makes for a highly entertaining and joyful novel, which is also educational about Victorian high society to boot.  

The Other Side of Mrs Wood by Lucy Barker is published today by Fourth Estate and you can now buy a copy from your favourite local book shop!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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