Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Seance.

Title/Author: The Séance by John Harwood.

Genre: Fiction/Supernatural.

Publisher: Mariner Books.

Source: Purchased.

Favorite character: Constance Langton.

All in all: Lovely, moody and spooky.

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.

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. 

The only thing I had a problem with was visualizing the Hall of Wraxford House where the experiments of the eccentric owners and the séances took place. I felt as if I was missing something. However, I got the gist of it so it wasn’t as if the scenes and descriptions weren’t believable or they had continuity issues, I just couldn’t see it. However, the gothic and sinister mood of the house and how it affected the characters is very clear. There is definitely a lot of creepy parts that satisfied my spooky needs.

The ending is bittersweet in some respects but ultimately happy. Constance doesn’t get everything she wants, but it is clear that she is on her way to a happy life.

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.)

Other editions:


Bookish Brunette said...

Ooooh this sound wicked creepy good! Just in time for Halloween!

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

What a nice surprise to find that you already owned another book by the author I love when that happens to me.

And it's always great fun to get lost in the time period.

Midnyte Reader said...

@Bookish Brunette-I really enjoyed this book. I hope more people check it out. A great Halloween book indeed!

@Missie-I really did get lost in the time period. It is one of the things I really liked about the book.

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