Thursday, October 6, 2011
Publisher: Mariner Books.
Favorite character: Constance Langton.
Synopsis: "London, the 1880s. A young girl grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance Langton takes her to a seance. Perhaps they will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the seance has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life." So begins The Seance, John Harwood's brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark tale set in late Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains - and murder. For Constance's bequest comes in two parts: a house, and a mystery Years before, a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion near the Suffolk coast. Now Constance must uncover the Hall's secrets, even at the cost of her life. What she discovers there, as she descends into the darkness at the heart of the mystery, will bring her face to face with her own deepest terrors and desires. ~Goodreads.com
My Thoughts: The Séance is a deliberate story that takes it time with set-up and characters. However, I don’t’ feel that it is “slow.” Although at times there is some telling instead of showing, I found the characters and events interesting and I read this book quickly. I also love the subject of spiritualism in Victorian times so that made it more compelling for me as well.
The story is told in 3 different viewpoints , Constance Langton, one of her ancestors named Eleanor Wraxford, and an attorney John Montague who is subtly involved in both women’s lives and is able to bridge part of the mystery that Constance is trying to figure out about Eleanor. Although the story is also told in different time periods, it wasn’t confusing for me. In fact, it lent itself to the mystery.
What I really found interesting is that the controversy of mediumship in The Séance can stand true in today’s standards as well. Constance tries to contact her younger sister for her mother’s sake hoping it will give her comfort. She noticed that “Most of the sitters were determined to believe whatever the medium told them.” Huh, interesting. Constance also challenged a skeptic “Why deprive them of the comfort a séance can bring?” The skeptic told her because it is a false comfort. Science is also discussed as well as Spiritualism and how the two may connect. This debate still continues.
Constance is an innocent, trusting woman grown from a child who always felt unloved and guilty because of the death of her younger sister. She inherits not only Wraxford Hall from a distant relative but the mystery that surrounds it and a long ago scandal. Step by step Constance pieces together events until she is led to the truth. I love her tenacity and I loved seeing her getting stronger and more strong willed as the story progressed. She put herself in situations that a very young woman of her day would typically not in order to uncover events.
I felt immersed in that time period due to the author’s use of language, events, behaviors and small details. It is very authentic to me and I kind of felt it was in a Jane Austen kind of style.
I looked up this author on Amazon to see what else he wrote and lo and behold, I already have his other book, The Ghost Writer, on my bookshelf. (Cue eerie music.)
Posted by Midnyte Reader at 10:29 AM