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The Seance

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  6,390 ratings  ·  807 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 di ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 3rd 2008 by Jonathan Cape, Vintage Publishing (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,390 ratings  ·  807 reviews

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Nov 14, 2015 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 dar
May 03, 2009 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 17, 2016 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 orpha ...more
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
I just finished this as part of a book group read and is not my usual type of read. As a fact, it’s my first “ghost” story I read….besides kids spooky Halloween comics.

Set in the later eighteen hundreds, Constance lost her sister and her grieving mother. At first it was my impression, that “The Séance” would take off as Constance takes her mother to see one, to make her feel better about her lost daughter. But that wasn’t so. The book is divided into many parts, timelines, and person’s views. It
This book was a strange one. I went into this with low expectations, as I'd seen a review prior to picking this up which emphasised how little of the supernatural was present in the storyline. I honestly think The Séance as a title is incredibly misleading, implying ghosts and visions. This book is not that. It is a story set during the Victorian period, and is more of a mystery than anything else. The tagline is a more apt title.

It took me a while to read this, and it took a long time to get in
Jul 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This definitely satisfied my urge for a gothic mystery.
Mar 23, 2011 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
Jun 03, 2011 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 t ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites-books
I know this book was not for everybody and I totally understand way, but I absolutely loved and enjoyed it so much. I actually pick this book up from the library for a book club group that I joined on goodreads that there were going to read in the month of Oct. I know some readers from the book club group didn't really like this one. Because it does have different pov's and subplots within the story that it all connects to the main plot at the very end. It also have a very eerie, haunted and dar ...more
Aug 03, 2011 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.

Joe Valdez
Apr 19, 2014 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
Aug 25, 2013 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
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 juxtapositi ...more
Marie Helene
Here comes Wraxford Hall, and estate with a past...

First of all, The Seance was a buddy-read, and a very enjoyable one 😀

Then, it is a very fine mystery novel set in Victorian times. There is even an epigraph before the first narrative begins: speak about a classy book (well, I confess I had to check in a dictionary what an epigraph is).

At the end, when everything appears to have received an explanation, you realize you still have a lot of uncertainties left on your plate. Craftily done Mr Harwoo
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this quite a bit. It was a good mystery, and each time I thought I knew which way it was going, it went a totally different way. By the end, it all made sense though. I thought the writing was very good, and I really enjoyed the Victorian setting. It felt right to read this in October. Thanks to my friends for an excellent buddy-read as well!
Ashlyn Hunt
Oct 20, 2011 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
Beth The Vampire

The Séance was a nice little gothic story will all the usual tropes of the genre; a haunted house, a haunted heroine, and a mystery. While I did find the second act much too long, and the ending of the story had a few holes in it, it was a mostly enjoyable tale that did hold a lot of tragedy, a dash of suspense, and just a tinge of death.

The story is initially told from the narrative of Constance Langton and her unhappy adolescent years caring for her mother as she grieves
Feb 26, 2009 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
Jul 17, 2011 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
Madly Jane
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 th ...more
Jul 10, 2016 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
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book started off very intriguingly, and the first two sections kept the story moving along, and leading to anticipation of where the book was going. But when the third section hit, the story just began to get confusing, as it kept jumping back further in time, and bog down in a section that should have been half as long. The story picked up again towards the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth sections, but again just felt like it dragged again until the end. The writing itself was m ...more
Guido Henkel
Jan 19, 2010 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
I'm proud to say that I've started the year off right by reading a BIO that's been on my shelf forever. I've long been intrigued by the cover art and the creepy description of the story within, but have continued to put it off for one reason or another. I'm so glad that I finally committed to reading this book because I enjoyed every spine-tingling moment! This story was by no means "scary," but it had the perfect Victorian ghostly chill that makes you want to curl up by a fire with a cup of tea ...more
Oct 01, 2012 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.
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A little bit boring, maybe too much beating around the bush, especially in the middle, but the end was good and unecpected.
4.5 stars. This spooky, twisty-turny, neo-Victorian gothic adventure has it all: seances and hauntings, mysterious inheritances and crumbling mansions, grim-faced men and truth-seeking women who are accused of hysteria and threatened with asylums when they get too close to the truth.

The audiobook, read by Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgrin and Fiona Hardingham made for a perfect pre-Halloween treat.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Creepy gothic read perfect for October! My husband and I listened to the audiobook of this while we painted my daughter's room in a new color she wanted.
This is an excellent novel, and a wonderful audiobook. Not that much in the way of supernatural things happening, but instead it’s more of a mystery novel. But I enjoyed nearly all of it. Until I got to the very end, and it became just a little maudlin, which I’m forgiving because the rest was good. The plot line was easy to guess which way it would go in some parts, and that was fine also.

The narrators are Fiona Hardingham, Simon Vance, and Katherine Kellgren. Hardingham got way too excited in
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
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What happened exactly? 6 80 Apr 28, 2014 09:29AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. The Seance 1 3 Mar 23, 2012 08:54AM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Mystery/Suspense Murder Old Manor [s] 6 48 Sep 13, 2010 08:47AM  

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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.

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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...” 2 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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