The Cloisters by Katy Hays

Ann hopes to start over after the death of her father, and heads to New York to work as a Curatorial Associate after graduating. When she arrives, there is no longer a place for her at the Met, but she’s offered a coveted place at the Cloisters, a mysterious Gothic building with beautiful gardens. Soon, Ann is immersed in the world of this museum, it’s halls and artifacts, the lives of the people she works with , beautiful Rachel and handsome curator Patrick. The world seems to fall away as she works with them on researching Renaissance divination practices, but things are about to get complicated and dark when a mysterious set of tarot cards turns up.

This is the authors debut novel, which is startling because it feels like it’s written by an old hand. The plotting is very tight and evenly paced, the book delivers on all it sets out to do, and the characters are complex and realistic. The book also creates a world for us, the world of museums and academia, and draws us into the insular nature of The Cloisters. It’s a very atmospheric novel, and while you’re sinking into the gothic fiction of it all, the author is drawing us into the mind of Ann, as she slowly leaves the outside world behind for the belonging she finds there, like a shared delusion, perhaps. Or the way the world falls away when you fall in love for the first time, and the dangers you don’t see ahead of you.

There’s something about this book that made me think of Rosemary’s Baby, though this book doesn’t really have a supernatural element like that story does. There are hints of the occult, but mostly it’s the building and it’s inhabitants, the innocence of Ann, the way everyone but her knows what’s going on, and the slightly cult like vibes and mystery. It’s the same slowly creeping atmosphere and mystery.

I really liked this book. The relationships and the drama here are absolutely juicy and delicious, and I loved the world of academia and the museum itself. You’ll find your self staying up after bed time to read one more chapter… or finish the whole book.

Read It If: you ever had that one friend who you wanted to be like, but who may have been a terrible influence… This one is dark academia, gothic fiction and a fascinating mystery.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book for review.

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