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The Seance

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  4,998 Ratings  ·  650 Reviews
Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside, has a sinister reputation. Once, a family disappeared there. And now Constance Langton has inherited this dark place as well as the mysteries surrounding it. Having grown up in a house marked by the death of her sister, Constance is no stranger to mystery, secrets, and the dark magic around us. Her father was ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 3rd 2008 by Jonathan Cape, Vintage Publishing (first published January 1st 2008)
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Feb 21, 2016 Jaidee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4.5 "insightful, melancholic and atmospheric" stars.

2015 Honorable Mention Read

Mr. Harwood has written a very, very fine book here.

This book will appeal to those readers that love a Victorian Gothic that has elements of mystery, the supernatural, romantic and familial love and deeply etched characters that think thoroughly, feel deeply and reflect on their own and others actions.

At first I thought this book was a series of interconnected novellas and then they merge into a story that is dark,
May 05, 2009 karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
okay it is high time i remove myself from the victorian gothic for a little while - everything is blurring together... this one was fine, not great. there was just something a little cartoony about it - big house, hidden passages, suits of armor, harnessing lightning, mesmerism... the usual. good rainy day book though.
May 30, 2016 Kimberly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE SEANCE, by John Harwood is a gothic, Victorian-style mystery. I have to say that I really enjoyed the author's writing style, and will be searching out other books by him in the near future. Using the technique of telling the tale with a series of narratives written by various people, we are taken further back in time to the legends and stigma surrounding Wraxford Hall. This decaying manor is somehow traced back through the lineage and left to a young woman, Constance Langton--recently ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
Review from Badelynge
The Seance by John Harwood is set in the 1880s and is the story of Constance Langton. She becomes involved in spiritualism in an effort to lift her mother from the crippling grief of losing a child. Constance, due to the lack of regard and love from her parents has always had the nagging feeling that there is some mystery about her heritage, believing herself to be a foundling. Through diaries and journals and the aid of a world weary solicitor called Mr Montague she discove
Aug 09, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hannah by: Amy S
I rated John Harwood's debut novel, The Ghost Writer, 2 stars, but this second novel is definitely a big improvement, and kept me interested (and creeped out) the entire time I was reading it.

The Seance is certainly a send up of all the classic Victorian gothics of the 19th century, (without all the flowery and overly melodramatic dialogue). Harwood's prose is almost flawless in it's execution, and he is a master in drawing the reader into an implausible world and making them believers in it.

Jun 03, 2011 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There is a good story here but it is buried beneath the tedium of excessive Victorian pleasantries and feints too clever for their own good. The late Nineteenth Century setting is perfect for this sort of story as superstition and mystery are still commonplace although being gradually worn away by the advance of science and technology. The characters attempt to provide rational and scientific explanations for phenomena but retain the hopes or beliefs that something supernatural may account for ...more
After a somewhat dry and uninspiring start, this book developed into an excellently crafted and superbly chilling cross between a period mystery and a ghost story. I was impressed with the author's handling of both plot and characterisation; though the narrative is composed of personal accounts written by different characters at different times, it flows perfectly, and the ending ties up a great deal of loose ends without seeming implausible. The only thing I was unsure about was the ...more
Harry McKinley
Jan 20, 2010 Harry McKinley rated it liked it
I always think the sign of a good book is when one reaches the end and feels a sense of loss that the experience of reading it is at an end. Note I said GOOD book and that's my problem believe it or not. This book was good but should have been great.

With subject matter like seances and manor houses, Victorian London and mysterious deaths and visitations this book should have been sinister, gripping and dripping in atmosphere but unfortunately it lacked the ambience and thrills one expected. The
Joe Valdez
May 14, 2014 Joe Valdez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Insomniacs, restless spirits, dead tired readers
Shelves: abandoned
I made it as far as page 34 before giving up on The Seance. I can't tell you if the novel gets around to dealing with the supernatural in a practical way, or is more about a teenage girl dealing with spiritualism and the death of her sister in London of the Victorian Age.

It wouldn't make any difference to me if this was a classical ghost story or not if the story grabbed me. Either Hardwood is a tedious writer, or his editors approved the first 50 pages being tedious.

The entire novel reads like
Dec 21, 2015 Tracey rated it really liked it
How do you like your Victorian gothic ghost story mysteries?
What makes it cut the mustard?
Do you need a big old ramshackle, spooky mansion? What about a haunted wood with the ghost of a monk that if you see you are like as not to die? And don't forget spiritualism, lighting strikes, menacing villains, untimely death, clairvoyance. a suit of armour, a slow building but not plodding plot reminiscent of Wilkie Collins The woman in white and don't forget mesmerism.
Well John Harwood has managed to re
Dec 23, 2013 Hilary rated it did not like it
Almost the best thing I can say about this book is "I liked the cover". It's a pastiche of the great Victorian Gothic novel, with overtones of Wilkie Collins. Sadly, the great Victorian public had more patience and more time on their hands than I do, and had also been less exposed to popular culture (there having been less of it around at the time) and were thus possibly less able to predict every. Last. Word of the storyline. There are no twists and no surprises: it does exactly what it says on ...more
Ashlyn Hunt
Oct 20, 2011 Ashlyn Hunt rated it it was ok

The Séance was a case of mistaken judging-by-cover. I proclaim that I'm savvier than buying a book based on the design of its marketing leaf, so I must add that I did read the synopsis, as well. But it mislead me too.

John Harwood is a beautiful writer - he truly captures landscape, and is gifted in the art of description. But the plot itself was over-processed with a very large finale fizzle. I felt that the story was humdrum. The Victorian research was brilliant and even the story had potentia
Mar 06, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Harwood's debut novel The Ghost Writer was one of those novels that will go down as a favorite of mine, so naturally when Harwood's second novel , The Séance, was recently released, I could not wait to read it.

The Séance is set in Victorian England and has all the elements which make for a great gothic mystery. There is a cursed run down mansion, a ghostly suit of armor, lightening bolts that strike out the blue, apparitions and other strange phenomena.

Constance Langton is introduced early
This was a dark, suspenseful, atmospheric, "gothic" tale, complete with ghosts, mysterious disappearances, a haunted house and a tragic death or two.

John Harwood carefully builds his mystery by offering the reader the history of Constance Langton's childhood. Her sister, Alma, died when she was not yet four years old, her mother, devastated by the loss, never recovered enough to develop a loving relationship with Constance. As a young woman Constance inherits Wraxford Hall.

The Hall is believe
Mar 09, 2009 Lori rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Suspense, Gothic, Victorian
Just as it appears Winter may be releasing the shores of Lake Erie from its death grip, I have found the perfect late autumn/winter read. In The Seance, John Harwood has recreated the best aspects of gothic dread. As in Harwood's freshman novel, The Ghost Writer, a major character in this story is a place: the decrepit Wraxford Hall...permeated by the stain of a violent past and filled with ominous secrets.

The troubled young woman who inherits Wraxford Hall has also inherited abilities as a spir
Melinda Jane Harrison
What a wonderful Victorian mystery, full of dread and that constant heavy feeling that something terrible is about to happen and well, something terrible does always happen, though not as one would expect. I loved this novel, probably more for what it did in showing the sad, true plight of Victorian women of the same class as the two narrators in this story, than for the horror of "THE LIE"--which is one of the big themes of this novel. How our lies and secrets keep us separated from the good ...more
Guido Henkel
Oct 06, 2010 Guido Henkel rated it it was amazing
“The Séance” is a wonderfully mysterious novel set in Victorian England. It is an utterly enchanting read that draws the reader into its magic and then takes them on a ride of apparitions and spooky encounters.

The most striking thing about the book is its voice. Very restrained and personable, the first-person narrative puts one right in the head of the main characters. Told in part through diary entries - much the same way Bram Stoker fashioned his classic “Dracula” - the story unfolds over var
Jul 26, 2016 SuperHeroQwimm rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-2
What the hell.
I'm having some mixed feelings here. I absolutely loved the middle of this book. But it had a really slow start and quite frankly, a shitty ending.
The villian in this book is such a huge asshat, for a great number of years and what happens to him in the end is nowhere near what he deserved (and kinda blah), and the damage he has done is irreversible so because of that the book could not end on a positive note.
Sure the name of an innocent woman is cleared, but after 20 years of peo
Jul 13, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Excellent mystery in the style of Wilkie Collins. The plot kept me guessing until the end, and the characters were well developed. It has some supernatural elements in it, but I wouldn't call it a horror story. Worth reading!
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
Ughhh... I will admit, I was interested in this story the first half of the book but after that it lost my interest. I did skim the rest. :/
Jan 12, 2014 Uncle rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
John Harwood’s The Seance reads like a Victorian “sensation novel”, one reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. As in any good “sensation novel”, The Seance has imperiled heroines, menacing yet charismatic villains, creepy places, emotional extremes, and violence. The novel’s compelling plot is worthy of an exciting Victorian “pot-boiler”.

The Seance weaves together the three narratives of Constance Langton, Eleanor Unwin, and the lawyer John Montague.The three share an unlikely conne
Kelly Hager
Dec 23, 2013 Kelly Hager rated it it was ok
This is a hard book to describe, so I'm just going to steal the jacket description:

"Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance's sister, the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a seance: perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a bequest that will blight her life.

So begins T
May 05, 2011 Steph rated it it was amazing
The Seance follows Constance Langton in her search for idenity and answers to a lost past and mystical gifts. When bequeathed an ancient family home with a sordid past, rooted in murmurs of alchemy and horror, Constance uncovers the truths for which the redemption of several generations hangs in the balance.

Those of you who have read Harwood's debut novel, The Ghost Writer, will not be surprised to learn that The Seance is filled with enough suspense and bone-chilling moments to satisfy any got
Amy S
Jun 15, 2011 Amy S rated it really liked it
One of the best things about reading this book was that I knew almost nothing about the plot. Everything that unfolded was a genuine surprise to me, so I am going to do my best not to reveal too much here. Our heroine grows up searching for love and the answers to the mysteries of her past. One of these mysteries leads her to Wraxford Hall, where she is told, "sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt if you will; but never live there."

The book is set in Victori
Jan 22, 2012 Brad rated it it was ok
Meh. It was ok for passing the time, but I won't be recommending it to anyone. The Victorian setting is suitably ominous for a possibly supernatural mystery. The Victorian obsession with spiritualism provides a nice undertone of part skepticism part belief. The story never quite reached a properly spooky tone, however. I never felt like any of the characters were in serious danger, except perhaps during the brief climax which is followed by such a lengthy and comparatively dull denouement that ...more
Martin Belcher
Mar 13, 2012 Martin Belcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
The Seance is a ghost story wrapped inside a murder, wrapped inside a disappearance and a mystery linked to the horrors of the Wraxford family.
This ghost story/ murder mystery is a mix of Agatha Christie meets M R James and Charles Dickens. It is expertly told in several different narratives from inter-connected characters and principally through Constance Langton whose gloomy life with her grief stricken mother in 1881 is brought to a startling change by a chance meeting and an attendance at a
Shanne Woodruff
Nov 07, 2012 Shanne Woodruff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book absolutely sucked the love of reading out of me. It hasnt taken me this long to finish a book in 20 years when I had to read other peoples choices for HS.I had high hopes , Victorian haunted houses, gothic setting and psychics ...whats not to love? The writing! It was drawn out, jumped all over the palace, characters were created only to never be heard from again. A great idea that went no where fast. It was under 400 pages and took me nearly 2 months to read,I read that a weekend or ...more
Oct 01, 2012 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another gothic mystery from the author of Ghost Writer. This one actually set in an appropriate time frame of mid to late 1800s. Solid book, but nothing very original here and the change of narratives convoluted a plot somewhat more so than improved it. Twist ending helped the story and elevated the overall impression. Fans of gothic genre are sure to enjoy this one.
Doug Beatty
Apr 10, 2009 Doug Beatty rated it really liked it
Creepy fabulous. Historical, set in the 1800's with a bit of a ghost story and a wonderful gothic house. Reminds me a bit of Dark Shadows. Told from the perspective of several characters involved. I really enjoyed this one.
Susan (the other Susan)
Sep 09, 2015 Susan (the other Susan) rated it really liked it
Harwood has to be channeling a 19th century writer of gothic novels. He's so pitch-perfect, it's easy to forget I'm reading a modern author. Lovely chills!
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What happened exactly? 6 69 Apr 28, 2014 09:29AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: The Seance 1 2 Mar 23, 2012 08:54AM  
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John Harwood is the author of two previous novels of Victorian Gothic suspense. Aside from fiction, his published work includes biography, poetry, political journalism and literary history. His acclaimed first novel, The Ghost Writer, won the International Horror Guild's First Novel Award. He lives in Hobart, Australia.
More about John Harwood...

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“We think of the mind as enclosed within the narrow compass of the skull, but we could equally imagine a cavern filled with dark water and connected by some subterranean passage, to the limitless depths of the ocean, and think of each individual mind as a droplet of one great oceanic Mind which contains everything: all the gods and demons, the paradises and underworlds of every religion on earth, all history, all knowledge, everything that has ever happened. A mind upon which it could truly be said that nothing is lost, not so much as the fall of a sparrow...” 1 likes
“ will understand why I say to you: sell the Hall unseen, burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there.” 0 likes
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