LitStack Recs: The Custom of the Country & The Quick

The Quick by Lauren Owenquick

I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before. I’m going to recommend a book that I didn’t finish reading.

The book is The Quick, by Lauren Owen. It’s a smartly written, deeply immersive, stylistically spot on with a compelling story line and well conceived characters. It takes place in a Victorian London that comes alive – for better or worse (you’ll see!) – and involves secret societies, family loyalty and a search for knowledge regardless of cost.
Oh, and it’s also about vampires.

I love period storytelling and London in the late 1800s is a glorious place to be anchoring a story. The city is gritty, cocky, refined and filthy in turns. It’s the legacy of Dickens and the Bronte sisters, the Rossetti’s, Oscar Wilde and the rise of Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s gaslights and swirling mist and back alleys, manners and mystery, drawing rooms full of leather bound books and propriety. It’s a man’s world but every once in a while a woman refuses to stay complacent. And Ms. Owen captures London in 1890 and the few years beyond beautifully, as well as the delicate dance of relationships, between brother and sister, children and parents, men and women, men and men – in many rapports – that was part of the British scene (and underground) at that time.

And it’s also about vampires.

Perhaps you like tales about vampires. If you do, then The Quick will thrill you and entice you. (The “Quick” is the name that the undead society gives to the unturned, as their mortal lives pass so quickly.) It does more than relay the fear that grips London when the creatures are about, it’s more than the thrill of the chase – of predator and prey or righteous hunter against foul brute, and more than trying to make civilized sense of primal sensations. It is in turn meticulous and fast moving, refined and brutal, full of good intentions and foul deeds. The Quick is all these things and more, a sure delight for those who love period pieces imbued with the supernatural.

So why didn’t I finish it? Because I really am not a huge fan of vampires, and because I ran out of time (I myself started the book based on a recommendation when there happened to be an opening on my reading schedule; it’s a relatively hefty book which is good if you have the time and daunting if you don’t). I was enjoying the book for how well it was written, but was not really vested in the subject matter, so when push came to shove, I set it aside in the hopes that I could return to it but was not able to do so. Still, I read about 3/4 of it and can heartily endorse it for those whose tastes run a bit more fiendish than mine, or for those who would enjoy a demonic tour of Victorian London.

I mean, it must be good, if I’m going to recommend it and I didn’t even reach the ending! For all you vampire lovers out there (of all kinds), you won’t go wrong with The Quick. That I can say with complete confidence.

—Sharon Browning