Bookish Posts · Posts 2019 · Reviews 2019

Book Review – ‘The Rapture’ by Claire McGlasson



Dilys is a devoted member of The Panacea Society, populated almost entirely by virtuous single ladies. When she strikes up a friendship with Grace, a new recruit, God finally seems to be smiling upon her. The friends become closer as they wait for the Lord to return to their very own Garden of Eden, and Dilys feels she has found the right path at last.

But Dilys is wary of their leader’s zealotry and suspicious of those who would seem to influence her for their own ends. As her feelings for Grace bud and bloom, the Society around her begins to crumble. Faith is supplanted by doubt as both women come to question what is true and fear what is real.


“Sometimes we cling to the very thing that is pulling us down.”

‘The Rapture’ is set in my home town of Bedford during the 1920’s. I already had a vague awareness of the Panacea Society and their leader Octavia and in fact, the Panacea Society museum is only a five minute walk from work for me, but shamefully I have never visited. I plan to rectify that now after reading this book. The Society believed in some pretty out there things but my particular favourite is that Bedford is the true location of the Garden of Eden and this is where the members hoped to spend their eternal lives. Now Bedford does have some lovely spots, but I’m not wholly convinced anyone would want to spend eternity there! The other completely bizarre thing I discovered reading this book, is that Octavia would breathe onto swathes linen, this would then be cut into small squares, the squares could then be placed into a glass of water to release Octavia’s essence into the water and it would provide all kinds of healing properties and sustenance. Safe to say, the Panacea Society members were pretty bonkers. But that’s what makes this such a fascinating read.

Dilys is our narrator and through her voice we get hear what life in the Society is like. She brings on board new recruit, Grace, and it’s her friendship with Grace that helps Dilys see that things might not be all they seem. The relationship that grows between them, is tentative, moving and wonderful to witness. I became quite emotionally attached to Dilys and I was sad to say goodbye to her when I finished the book. Mental health is quite a strong theme in this novel and it’s scary to see how people’s fears can be played on and manipulated. And how a broken mind can become so fixated on something that a whole group of people can be convinced to believe the same things.

Claire McGlasson has done a superb job of describing Bedford and it’s landmarks. I took great pleasure in reading about the places I know so well. Even if I was a stranger to the town, the writing would have brought it to life for me. I could easily envision myself walking beside Dilys along the embankment and stepping into the Bunyan Meeting church. I spent a lot of time Goggling during and after reading ‘The Rapture’, not only did I have to feed my intrigue into the Panacea Society and the real-life characters the book features. I also discovered an obsession with old photos of Bedford, I found it fascinating to see my everyday paths in a new light, seeing how it would have been for the people who walked the same paths hundreds of years before me. So I must thank Claire McGlasson for inspiring me to look a little closer at my local history.

‘The Rapture’ is a captivating tale of remarkable true events. It’s unsettling, emotional, completely gripping, hopeful and with characters that are incredibly likeable. If you love a book with a crazy cult then this is one for you!

The Rapture (Hardback)


‘The Rapture’ is published in hardback by Faber & Faber on the 6th of June. With thanks to Lauren at Faber for my review copy.

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