Hilary's Reviews > The Seance

The Seance by John Harwood
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Jul 17, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction, victorian, supernatural, mystery, to, oxfam, it, goes
Read in July, 2011

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 the tin.[return][return]To be fair, I quite enjoyed the first section, the saga of poor, sad Constance with her unloving father and her melancholic mother and how her urge to help said mother leads her to the fatal path of spiritualism, but as disaster and woe piled on disaster and woe I was, once again, irresistibly reminded of Edward Gorey. When the perspective shifted and the next narrator took up the story I found myself skipping and, in the end, just read the last section, in which Constance picks up the narrative again, and found that, actually, I had missed almost nothing at all.[return][return]I will give it credit for this. On learning that her nursemaid's mother had had five children die, Constance naturally assumes that she must have been even more grief-stricken than Constance's own mother, who had lost only one child. "But no, said Annie, there had been no time for mourning; her mother had been too busy looking after the rest of them." Melancholia was and, I suppose, still is, strictly a middle-class privilege.
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Katie Considering this is a modern novel, Harwood should have spiced it up to hold the attention of today's audience, without sacrificing the Victorian gothic atmosphere.

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