“People had let us down. People had broken our hearts. We liked books and animals and messy rooms full of things that weren’t people.“
Sara Gran ~ The Book of the Most Precious Substance
Rare book dealer Lily Albrecht has just been given a tip-off about The Book of the Most Precious Substance, a 17th century manual rumoured to be the most powerful occult book ever written, if it really exists at all.
With some of the wealthiest people in the world willing to pay Lily a fortune to track it down, she embarks on a journey from New York to New Orleans to Munich to Paris.
If she finds it, Lily stands to gain more than just money. This could erase the greatest tragedy of her life. But will Lily’s quest help her find some answers, or will she lose everything in search of a ghost?
What the hell did I just read? This book was absolutely not what I was expecting, but it blew me away.
The Book of the Most Precious Substance is a story about bookish nerds. And sex. It’s a bit like a pornographic Labyrinth and I thought it was fantastic.
At first, it seems a straightforward story of magical realism – a quest for an occult book that will solve Lily’s problems. To her the book means money to pay for her husband’s medical care, but to others it means power and a way to fix everything that has gone wrong. And yet, the way to gain this powerful tome involves a journey of sexual exploration, to create the ‘precious substance’ that very few can hope to achieve.
The characters were perhaps not as vivid as they could have been; in fact the only one we really get to know is Lily. Her dedication to her husband is admirable but naïve, something made clear by the book’s end. And yet, Lily surprises us with her strength and determination to complete the quest.
I think about this book a lot. It could be classed as an erotic thriller, historical fiction or even dark academia. It claws its way inside you on many levels, both emotionally and sensually. The premise is unique and yet it’s entirely believable. Lily’s sexual awakening is interesting to read about, but her motives are quite touching. As we go on the explorative journey with her, we question our own sexual prowess and wonder about the true power of sex and attraction.
Thought-provoking, magical and engrossing, this book may win the award for the oddest book I have read this year!
Thanks to Faber Books for my proof copy. Opinions my own.