The Book of Human Skin

1784, Venice. Miniguillo Fasan claws his way out of his mother’s womb. The magnificent Palazzo Espagnol, built on New World drugs and silver, has an heir. Twelve years later Minguillo uncovers a threat to his inheritance: a sister. His jealousy will condemn her to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But she is not alone – aided by an irascible portrait-painter, a doctor obsessed with skin, and a cigar-smoking nun – Marcella pits her own fierce heart against Minguillo.

Goodreads, Amazon UK 

This book was a different kind of genre to what I normally read. Actually, I find it hard to describe this genre. Historical? Definitely. Thriller? Horror? Romance? All three at once? All I can say is this was an interesting, creepy book. All the characters were creepy in some way, even the doctor who Marcella fell in love with. His obsession with skin led me to think he was one of the bad guys at first and even though he got better as the book went on, he seemed to transfer his obsession to Marcella instead. Still, their relationship was quite sweet.

Doing Loreta and Minguillo’s POV chapters following them through childhood and into being adults was a really good idea. Both of them were far creepier when you could see their thought processes develop than if they had only been described from others’ POV. Loreta was so very creepy in how she ignored all logic. From other POV chapters, I felt sorry for her a little because she is so trapped in her way of thinking, but then you switched back to her own POV and you realised just how hateful her thoughts were. Talking about loving God, even as she hated everything about his creation.

Minguillo, on the other hand, I felt like he was a better character earlier in the book. He seemed to get more like a cartoon villain later on with the ridiculous clothes and his skin problems. I wasn’t a fan of the implication of bad skin=evil character but it did tie in nicely with the title and his own obsession. His downfall being the fact he assumed everyone was as bitter and as self-serving as he was was a fitting end to his character arc. I’m happy with how the book ended, everyone’s stories connected and resolved themselves in a satisfying way.

My absolute favourite moment of the book was when Minguillo thought Marcella was dead. The empty ‘not sure what to do now’ feeling he described is exactly how I imagined Minguillo to feel at his sister’s death and fit carefully with his character. Minguillo didn’t love his sister but he was obsessed with her (and his home) and I think his reaction was spot on for the object of his obsession to be dead, no matter how much he was working towards it.

This book dragged a little in the middle but I’m glad I carried on. A strange book but I really liked it. Five stars!


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