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The Essence of an Hour

by Susan Furber

An ill-fated summer of romance, lust and indiscretion sends a young woman hurtling through the dark.

Click here to read the first chapter of this thrilling debut novel.

“Youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s 1941, the last summer of American innocence, and eighteen-year-old Lillie Carrigan is desperate to love and be loved, to lose her virginity, to experience her life’s great, epic romance. Preoccupied with whiskey and cigarettes, sex and Catholic guilt, Lillie unknowingly sets in motion events leading to death and estrangement from her two best friends.

A decade on, Lillie is still haunted by the ghosts of that summer. Did she act solely out of youthful naivety and adolescent jealousy? Or perhaps there were darker forces at work: grief, guilt, sexual assault, and the double standards of her strict religious upbringing. Searching for patterns and meaning in the events of that year, and anxious to understand the person she has become, Lillie reflects on the darkness of her tarnished youth and confesses her sins.

“Reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, this is an honest and moving tale of small-town American girls seeking love in the 1940s. Fresh, thought-provoking and highly relevant … an impressive debut by any standards.”
– Christine Dwyer Hickey, winner of the 2020 Walter Scott prize for fiction

“A sensitive coming-of-age story that captures the constraints of time and place, suppressed desires, and the complexities around female friendship.”
– J.M. Monaco, author of How We Remember  

“This story, authentic to a bygone era, is also timeless in its accurate portrayal of a young woman’s journey into her own eager heart. It is told with a voice that sparks like the click of a cigarette lighter.”
– Anna Monardo, author of The Courtyard of Dreams


Susan Furber was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1992. She holds a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, and spent a year at the University of Oxford. Susan is an editor and lives in London with her husband. Her first novel, The Essence of an Hour, was published by Valley Press in February 2021.


Edition: First

Date Published: 2021-02-18

ISBN: 9781912436491

Catalogue Number: VP0169

Number of Pages: 276

Cover design by Jamie McGarry and Peter Barnfather

Cover image from the Everett Collection

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