“Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family’s woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price.”
A Curse Dark As Gold is the award winning debut novel from Elizabeth C. Bunce, which gives a new interpretation to the classic story of Rumpelstiltskin.
When looking at the original story, one of the main messages is – what’s in a name? Though every character, from the King to the miller, to Rumpelstiltskin himself has a name, the main character – the miller’s daughter, is nameless. Thus our protagonist, Charlotte Miller, was created.
Set in the country town of Shearing in England during the late 1700s, we meet Charlotte and her younger sister, Rosie, on the gloomy day of their father’s funeral. With no one else to take over the family’s woolen mill, Stirwaters, Charlotte must take charge to ensure the workplace the whole village depends on for income, stays afloat. This is by no means a small feat.
On top of battling the mill’s debts, deadlines for wool production and maintaining her authority as a woman during the 1700s, the mill itself is cursed. Not only does it seem to have a mind of its own – sometimes causing injuries to the workers, but a son born to the current owner of the mill has never survive into adulthood. While the mill’s debts are the biggest concern, the mysterious Jack Spinner comes on the scene. He makes himself and his unique abilities to turn everyday material into anything you desire (such as gold) available to the Millers – but at what cost?
A Curse Dark As Gold is the third historical novel in a row that I’ve read lately and I must say, I’m really loving it. As mentioned, it’s a reinterpretation of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, which was done very well considering it was retold while staying in the same time period as the original was set. Considering we know the ending to the fairytale, you’re still left in suspense wondering just how everything will come together in the end of this book.
There are so many different themes and issues that came up in this book but were blended and balanced out very well. The first is showing how the Industrial Revolution impacted the “cottage industry” or more traditional manufacturing methods of items such as wool and fabric which is the case in this story. The plot also brings together the superstitions and hidden secrets found in quite country villages. Not only that but the villagers themselves are gutsy people who work hard and approach any problem head on such as the big city business trying to make a move on their mill and stamp out their way of life.
It also shows the difference between a woman’s place in society in the city versus the country. Charlotte and her sister work hard on the mill, and though it is accepted in the country; we see that in the city, she’d be expected to do no more than be a pretty young lady, leaving servants to take care of anything else. This is highlighted by the arrival of the girl’s only living relative, their Uncle Wheeler. Though he shows up in fine clothes and powdered wig, under his refined exterior lie dark secrets and betrayals.
Love is shown in many forms throughout the story. We see the Charlotte’s love for the Stirwaters and the people in it who are her extended family, her love for her sister as well as her love for Randall. I adored Randall; I thought he was such a great character and an example of the perfect gentleman who works hard to protect the ones he loves. Charlotte’s love for Stirwaters however, almost jeopardized her relationship with Randall, as she let her pride and her want to protect others by handling the entire burden herself get in the way, as she became secretive and progressively distant from him. We definitely see the importance of communication and knowing that you shouldn’t underestimate those around you.
A Curse Dark As Gold is a thrilling read that takes on a classic fairytale and makes it something new a different while giving you insight the mysteries that lie beneath seemingly quite country towns. A terrific addition to the historical novels coming out recently.
Publication Date: August 2010
Teaser Quote: “Oh,” he said considering the idea, “let’s say Jack Spinner.”
“That’s no kind of name”
“It’s all the name I need here.” He gave a slight smile and tipped his hat. “Tonight, then. I’ll be back at sundown.”