Monday, March 1, 2010

The Seance

Book No: 58
Title: The Séance
Author: John Harwood
Genre: Fiction
Completed: 11/03/09
No. of Pages: NA
Rating: 3/5*****

I love Victorian settings in books, I love gothic mysteries and I love a good ghost story, therefore I should have loved The Séance, unfortunately I didn’t love this book. It started out well but fell apart by the end, a similar complaint I had for The Ghost writer, Harwood’s first book. Once again I felt that the author didn’t know how to close out the story and started throwing in way too many surprises and twists, making the ending more complicated than necessary.

The story is told in three alternating narratives, Eleanor Unwin, Mistress of Wraxford Hall; John Montague, solicitor for Eleanor’s husband Magnus; Constance Langton, a young woman who has recently become the new owner of Wraxford hall, through an inheritance from a distant relative. Told by Montague to burn the house down and never live in it Constance is drawn to the mystery of the manor and the tragedies that seem to surround it.

All the elements of a good Victorian Gothic are here, a brooding manor house, ghostly apparitions, dark woods, a marriage that isn’t what it seems, a young woman estranged from her family and trying to make her way in the world, doomed lovers, mesmerism and secrets galore. Yet it somehow fails to all come together in the end. There are several plot threads that are dropped or never resolved and while the title of the book and the appearance of a few ghosts seem to indicate a paranormal story, there isn’t a lot of séance in the book and although a bit of a creepy story it wasn’t a very scary one. The ending was anticlimactic, although Harwood does score points for wrapping up one of the mysteries in a very believable way.

Although this book was very atmospheric and I liked the style of the writing, in the end it was a disappointing read.

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