A dark sequel to Dickens' Seasonal, A Christmas Carol, Louis Bayard's novel takes up the story with Tiny Tim grown up, and 'not so tiny anymore'. A ta...moreA dark sequel to Dickens' Seasonal, A Christmas Carol, Louis Bayard's novel takes up the story with Tiny Tim grown up, and 'not so tiny anymore'. A tall lanky young man with only a slight limp and pain in the bad leg, he has reached a place in his life where he has no real sense of purpose. He lives in a brothel, teaching the Mistress to read. It is not until he sees a girl running by in the night, and finds the bodies of other, murdered girls, marked with a strange brand that he becomes involved in a mystery, and begins to feel something again.
One of the things I loved about the novel was the sense of disillusionment. In imaginary letters to his father, the now dead Bob Cratchit, Timothy reveals that he never was the fresh faced cherub he was painted as, and the sense of disillusionment he felt when he realised that, despite their wealthy benefactor, he would never become something more, never reach out and become part of some illustrious other world. While their 'uncle' Scrooge is well-off, he has not the riches of a lord or baron, and could make life more comfortable for them, but never really changed their station in life. 'Uncle N' still gives Timothy an allowance, and yet he lives in a house of ill-repute, earning his keep by tutoring a Mistress.
In this story, as in A Christmas Carol, there are ghosts, but they are never definitively real, and seem more the shades of beloved ones we wish we could talk to one last time. Tim sees his father everywhere, in strangers who have some small resemblance to him. I really enjoyed these parts of the story, which were well fleshed out and believable, longing making the dead father almost tangible for Tim.
This novel is a dark one, a novel of the seedy side of London, of the wicked secrets within the hearts of men. It is an engrossing novel from start to finish, peopled with idiosyncratic characters and told with a deadpan black humour. Despite their many failings, there is a deep love for the city and for the characters it holds.
This novel is not for the faint-hearted, as it does involve child trafficking. I liked the secondary characters, with Colin being a little annoying at first, but soon proving his mettle, and Philomela being astoundingly brave and determined. I really found myself caring for them by the end.
This was a wonderful read for me, although heart-wrenching in places, and I thoroughly recommend it!(less)
Readers used to a more modern style of writing may find this book a little challenging, but it is well worth persevering!
Kept has a wide range of cha...moreReaders used to a more modern style of writing may find this book a little challenging, but it is well worth persevering!
Kept has a wide range of characters, the connections between which will not be immediately seen, and often uses different forms of writing, such as the epistolatory form of letters which was highly popular during the Victorian Era. It also uses a lot of Victorian turn of phrase, and the style of the omniscient narrator, but sometimes addressing the author personally, breaking the fourth wall, we would say in film. There is also the style common with some older novels, of occasionally lapsing into present tense.
For me, as someone who loves literature and the Victorian era, I found that all these things added to the charm! I really felt like I was reading a novel from the era, and the well-written descriptions and wry humour really helped me become a part of the world. I also liked the mix of events, from crime, to even some rather gothic scenes in the old house. The mysteries of what is going on unravel slowly in a wonderful way.
The author has a great knowledge of all the facts of the era, the artists, authors, newspapers, every detail feels spot on, and I find the references to writers and artists fascinating! He perfectly captures the minutiae of Victorian life in London and Scotland. The book has a very real feeling with palpable descriptions, creating a very real world within its pages.
It was fascinating to watch the stories intertwine as the story reached its conclusion. I must admit, I hoped for a happier ending for some of the characters, even though I knew it was unlikely. The story felt very real, and the endings kept with that. I need to find out which others of the main characters might have been real people, and the author cleverly interwove many real aspects of the time into his work.
The story also deals sensitively with mental illness and its treatment at the time, although, I think, had the character not been of the upper classes, her treatment would have been far worse.
There are so many things I want to talk about in regards to the book, but I don't want to spoil the story, because its unravelling is one of its pleasures. Just take it from me, this book is a must read!(less)
Madame Xanadu began as a mystic character in DC comicbooks. Before reading this graphic novel I had never heard of her before, but this story offers a...moreMadame Xanadu began as a mystic character in DC comicbooks. Before reading this graphic novel I had never heard of her before, but this story offers a more than satisfactory introduction. With beautiful illustrations, costuming, and well-written 'voice over' storytelling, this book is a pleasure to read.
The story takes place in iconic times in history: Arthurian England, The Xanadu of Kubla Kahn, the French Revolution, Victorian London under the threat of Jack The Ripper, Depression Era America...
It's also good to see an 'old friend' (I know, I'm a geek for thinking of book characters as friends), Death from the Sandman Comics, that perky Goth girl who is also the wisest and oldest being in the universe. Of course, no one writes her as well as her creator, Neil Gaiman, but I'm still happy to see her cameo in this.
I didn't enjoy the London chapter as much, apart from the outfits, because the whole Jack The Ripper thing is done so often and feels much less fresh and original than the other chapters.
There are a lot of other characters in this from the comics, who I also don't recognise, and I think it would be interesting to know how this story read from the point of view of someone who already knew all these characters, but I don't think you need to know the characters to enjoy it. I can't imagine it being any better than it was, it was fantastic!(less)
A Gothic tale of pure perfection, with cleverly interwoven plotlines and a dark mystery that is not fully revealed until the final pages! The characte...moreA Gothic tale of pure perfection, with cleverly interwoven plotlines and a dark mystery that is not fully revealed until the final pages! The characters were well written and sympathetic, and the story gripped me from beginning to end. Good use was made of elements that fascinated in the Victorian Era such as mesmerism, Johannes Trithemius and lightning. (The Lair of the White Worm, which I read recently, showed an fascination with the destructive powers of lighting.)
While some modern audiences may not be used to the Gothic genre, and the way the plot slowly unwinds, as well as the epistolatory form of the novel, I think it has been written as an engaging narrative that will still interest modern audiences. The ongoing mysteries are fascinating, and the final explanations very satisfying. If you are looking for something different from the obvious and gore soaked modern mysteries, this book will be a refreshing change.(less)
This was an amazing book. It was written in an interesting way, not dry like some other historical books. It was filled with wry humour at the strange ways of humanity, but also sympathy and pathos. It was fascinating to see how burial customs and the beliefs that surrounded them changed over time. The book reaches from Pagan era to the modern day, although a large portion revolves around the Victorian era 'the people who invented death.'
It was wonderful to learn about the changing attitudes to cremation, the creation of cemeteries as beautiful gardens, and luminaries like Isabella Holmes who turned neglected funeral plots in space starved London into playgrounds for poor children. The book was macabre, humourous, and sad, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of London, or the ways we mourn and the history behind them.(less)