Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Lost History of Dreams

Rate this book
A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.

Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 9, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Kris Waldherr

40 books346 followers
Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author and illustrator whose books for adults and children include Bad Princess, Doomed Queens, and The Book of Goddesses. The New Yorker praised Doomed Queens as “utterly satisfying” and “deliciously perverse.” The Book of Goddesses was a One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club’s Top Ten Most Popular Book. Her picture book Persephone and the Pomegranate was noted by the New York Times Book Review for its “quality of myth and magic.” Waldherr is also the creator of the Goddess Tarot, which has a quarter of a million copies in print. Her Kirkus-starred debut novel The Lost History of Dreams was named a CrimeReads Best Book of the Year and her Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women was an Editor's Choice at the Historical Novels Review.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
342 (20%)
4 stars
554 (32%)
3 stars
567 (33%)
2 stars
192 (11%)
1 star
53 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 346 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
4,079 reviews59k followers
August 21, 2019
The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr is a 2019 Touchstone Books publication.

A mesmerizing traditional Gothic tale replete with ghosts and a few stunning twists that will keep you turning pages long past your bedtime!

All love stories are ghost stories in disguise

Robert Highstead, a former historian turned post -mortem photographer, is still struggling with the premature death of his wife, Sida. His daguerreotype photos bring comfort to others, and is in an odd way, a cathartic occupation.

However, when his brother informs him that their cousin, the famed poet Hugh de Bonne has died, he asks Robert to accompany Hugh's remains to his final resting place. Robert never met Hugh in life and is initially reluctant to make the journey. But, because Hugh wished to be laid to rest by his beloved wife, Ada, in a glass chapel he made especially for her, sixteen years prior, he agrees, knowing better than most the desire to be reunited with one’s spouse.

However, the scene he encounters upon arriving on the moors of Shropshire is startling. His presence is not welcomed by Ada's niece, Isabelle, who outright refuses to unlock the chapel. Not only that, he learns the chapel is a gathering place for deeply devoted fans, of Hugh’s last book, “The Lost History of Dreams.”

Isabelle and Robert strike a bargain, eventually. If Robert will record Ada’s story, within five nights, Isabelle will agree to unlock the chapel.

Ada’s life story, as told through Isabelle’s masterful storytelling, keeps Robert entranced to the point of obsession. As the relationship between Isabelle and Robert deepens, the sad story surrounding Sida, and her death gradually unravels, revealing Robert’s guilt and inconsolable grief. His condition is so profound, spirits linger in his orbit, neither of them able to abide the present circumstances, or move beyond them.

Naturally, I really liked this story. It’s right up my alley and I got sucked into it immediately. The story enthralled me and kept me glued to the pages from start to finish. While a bit too ambitious at times, this is a crackling good historical mystery, heavily steeped in old school Gothic traditions.

While the dramatics are toned down a bit, the story is heavy, creepy, and atmospheric. The mystery is absorbing and twisty, which kept me on toes.

But, let’s not forget the love story. It’s unconventional, but pure Gothic joy. However, I also loved the eventual break in the clouds, and all the possibilities and hope the story left me with.

Although I read this story in the peak of summer, the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking it would be a great fireside novel fitting for long, dark winter nights. But no matter when you decide to read it, if you like Gothic historical fiction, you don’t want to pass this one up.

Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 26 books24.7k followers
November 27, 2018
Updated with my cover quote:

"Wuthering Heights" meets "Penny Dreadful" in Kris Waldherr's LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS, a dark Victorian epic of obsessive love, thwarted genius, and ghostly visitations. When Byronic poet Hugh de Bonne dies mysteriously, post-mortem photographer Robert Highstead is propelled into a dark quest to fulfill the poet's dying wish and reunite two long-dead lovers. Still locked in obsessive grief for his own lost wife, Robert must confront his own demons as well as Hugh's if he is to learn the unsettling truth behind his mission. Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor.
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
798 reviews595 followers
April 13, 2019
3.5 Stars → Any novel described as "in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights" is a must-read for me. So many elements of THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS grabbed me from the beginning. Set in Victorian England, this is a book within a book, that tells of two tragic love stories and the mystery surrounding a glass chapel hidden in the eerie woods.

Robert Highstead, a widowed post-mortem photographer, is called upon to photograph his deceased cousin, the poet Hugh de Bonne. The glass chapel holds the remains of Hugh's long-dead wife Ada, and in order for their niece Isabelle to receive her inheritance, she must unlock the chapel and allow Hugh to be laid to rest beside Ada. However, when Robert arrives, Isabelle refuses to do so, unless Robert listens to the story of Aunt Ada's life over the course of five nights.

I enjoyed the beginning of this book very much, but the middle part was a struggle to get through. The pacing was slow, and there was a lot there that wasn't moving the story forward. I was still very curious about the mystery of why Isabelle refused to unlock the chapel, and what Ada's life story would reveal. The writing was beautiful and atmospheric, and it was easy for me to slip into the time and place. In true gothic tradition, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a haunting tale of ghosts, grief, and buried family secrets on the moors.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Heather Webb.
Author 14 books1,034 followers
August 24, 2018
I had the good fortune of reading an early copy of The Lost History of Dreams. In this accomplished debut, Kris Waldherr transports the reader to the fascinating world of Victorian England and its tradition of post-mortem photography with a deft hand. An atmospheric tale of lost love, family secrets, and an inquiry into how our own histories define us, I relished every poetic page. Mesmerizing, lyrical, and deliciously brooding, The Lost History of Dreams is a terrific contribution to Gothic literature.
Profile Image for Katherine Riley.
Author 1 book61 followers
April 6, 2019
The Lost History of Dreams is historical fiction. It is also a delicate nesting of two love stories. It is a slim volume of romantic poetry. It is a gothic mystery. It is even, arguably, a scholarly investigation of such varied topics as Ovid, daguerreotyping, stained glass, and ornithology. The prose is exquisite, the characters compelling, and the rendering of Victorian England feels deliciously exact. Waldherr has created here something very lovely and unique.
Profile Image for Aga Durka.
200 reviews60 followers
April 4, 2019
4 Mesmerizing Stars.

A tragic love story set in Victorian England that will pull you in with its atmospheric and unique setting. I loved the gothic, dark, and eerie feel of this novel, and the paranormal theme added just enough spice to make this family mystery a compelling and fascinating read. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading gothic literature where the use of symbolism is masterfully intertwined in the story.

Thank you NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author, Kris Waldherr, for giving me an opportunity to read this beautiful novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Julianne Douglas.
44 reviews14 followers
April 9, 2019
In an early chapter of Kris Waldherr's debut novel, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS (Atria, April 2019), protagonist Robert Highstead, a frustrated writer turned post-mortem daguerrotypist, can hardly contain his excitement at opening an unfamiliar book. "Books were easy, unlike people," the narrator reveals, mirroring Robert's thoughts. "Writing them, however, was another matter."

If writing this remarkable novel was difficult for Walherr, she has deftly disguised the strain. From its unique premise to its elegant language to its cleverly nested and emotionally satisfying plot, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is captivating work worthy of a seasoned novelist. Recasting Ovid's story of Orpheus and Euridyce in an eerily Gothic context, Waldherr creates a sweeping tale of love and loss, of beauty and obsession, of guilt and grief that totter to the brink of madness, and of deliverance that soars on the wings of doves.

Haunted by tragedy, Robert Highstead abandons his academic career to capture images of deceased strangers. At the request of his estranged brother, he undertakes a decidedly curious task: that of returning the embalmed body of a distant cousin, the famed poet Hugh de Bonne, to the poet's estate for burial. Hugh desired to be laid to rest beside his beloved wife and muse, Ada, in the stained-glass chapel he had built years earlier to house her remains. The key to this chapel, locked since Ada's death and an object of intense interest to the cult-like fans of Hugh's poems, is in the possession of Ada's niece, Isabelle, who lives on the now-decrepit estate. A recluse who bides in perpetual mourning for her aunt, Isabelle refuses to honor Hugh's final request unless Robert agrees to record--and publish--the true story of Hugh and Ada's marriage. Desperate to complete his task, Robert agrees. Over the course of five nights, Isabelle recounts a tale that undermines the carefully constructed chimera of Hugh's poetic fictions and draws teller and listener into an explosive confrontation with truth and with each other.

The tragedy of Robert and Sida's marriage, the mystery of Isabelle's identity, the machinations of the Seekers of the Lost Dream, the validity of the love immortalized in Hugh's poems: Waldherr masterfully handles these numerous plot threads, playing with patterns and echoes and parallels until the distinctions between past and present, fact and fiction, truth and falsehood collapse. All love stories are ghost stories, she repeatedly reminds the reader, as characters struggle to free themselves from the grip of lost love and the anguish of unfulfilled promise. Words and art ultimately serve as both liberator and prison, for it is only by immersing himself in Isabelle's story that Robert can revise the course of his own.

Readers of Waldherr's novel will experience the same thrill that Robert feels when he opens Hugh's book of poems for the first time. THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is not an easy book, but it is an immensely gratifying one, whose images and ideas will linger long after the cover closes.
Profile Image for Dan.
Author 15 books101 followers
September 8, 2018
Love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

Kris Waldherr’s THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a lush fever dream of a book. From its first pages there is a sense of disconnection from the mundane world. Robert Highstead, daguerreotypist of the dead, has severed all ties to anything and anyone that might stand between him and his love. Forced to perform a grim and unpleasant errand, Robert will ultimately have to confront his past and everything he holds dear.

Waldherr expertly establishes the threads of loss, mourning, and love that wind throughout the novel's entwined stories, and she uses the trappings of gothic romance to repeatedly turn the tables on the reader, showing us that nothing is as we might assume, and every story has multiple authors.
Profile Image for Megan Collins.
Author 4 books1,187 followers
November 7, 2018
This book was exquisite. The setting was eerie and beautiful, the prose was gorgeous, and the characters were as haunting as they were haunted. The entire story was richly compelling, but the last 100 pages had me basically speed-reading, eager to find out all these characters' secrets. The twists were surprising, satisfying and, at times, even moving.

As someone who's passionate about classical mythology, when I learned that this was an Orpheus and Eurydice reimagining, I was so excited--and the book's use and manipulation of the myth actually exceeded my expectations. It made me think of that ancient story in ways I never had before, which I didn't even think was possible at this point, since it's one of my all-time favorite myths.

It's rare for me to be moved to tears by a book, but this one did it for me. While the story can be deliciously creepy and chilling at times, it's ultimately a beautiful story of love, loss, and grief, and it's one I won't soon forget.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
315 reviews34 followers
March 27, 2019
DNF @ 15%

Unfortunately, I am throwing in the towel on this one. I am having the hardest time connecting with the writing style; which is a shame because this type of story is one that would typically be right up my alley.

Given all of the 5 star reviews, I would highly encourage you to give this one a try. This is simply a case of "it's not you, it's me".

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for my reading copy via Edelweiss
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,253 reviews393 followers
April 14, 2019
4.5 stars

This book has been on my radar for months. I basically stalked the authors Twitter page waiting to see when there would be ARC’s available and hoping that I would get picked to be an early reader!

To say that this book has my name written all over it is an understatement. I love all things Victorian and Gothic and this book couldn’t have been more intriguing to me if it tried. It had everything I was looking for in a great Gothic read.

I was beyond thrilled to get picked as an early reader and patiently waited to start the book so that I could savor every single aspect of it! The hype around this book has been pretty real, it’s been all over social media for a while now and I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the hype!

Like any good Gothic novel, this one start off a little on the slow side. It takes its time building up the creepy factor and creating uneasiness for the reader. Admittedly the first third of the book was a little slow and boring for me. I was eager for the pace to quicken, but Victorians aren’t known for their speed. The author clearly tries to maintain the classic Victorian gothic feel of this book and like a classic writer of the genre, takes her time building up to the story itself.

It had everything that a classic Gothic novel should have—a crumbling family estate, a love story, mysterious dark characters, uneasy or damaged protagonists, and of course ghosts. I absolutely loved this book. It was a thrilling read and after the first third, the rest of the book progressed nicely and the unfolding story was interesting, sensual, and creepy. I loved taking a journey into the unknown with this one!

For me, this wasn’t a fast read. There was a lot of lush prose, historic details, and elegant descriptions that made me want to slow down and enjoy as a reader rather than rush through it to see what the ending was. I like books that move, but having this one be a bit more of a slow burn for me worked.

I was intrigued by the setting, plot, and the characters so needless to say this was a home run for me! I loved it and am excited to read more by this author. What a wonderfully a live Gothic novel!

See my full review here
Profile Image for Gina.
Author 2 books58 followers
September 10, 2018
With a tag line like “every love story is a ghost story,” I expected THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS to be haunting, but I was still not prepared to be sucked in to the rich underworld through which Kris Waldherr’s wraithlike characters flicker. Like Orpheus, be prepared to look back and wonder what is real and what is fantastic. With tales nested in tales told by narrators of varying reliability, TLHOD will keep you guessing until the last riveting page. Waldherr’s storytelling will grip you and leave you wanting more.
Profile Image for Nancy Bilyeau.
Author 12 books883 followers
March 28, 2019
I found this book darkly magical. If you like literary writing, eerie atmosphere, complex characters, and Victorian-era sensuality, you will adore this book. I'm a sucker for a ghostly house of secrets and broken hearts when the writing is top notch!
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
January 28, 2019
A gothic novel with daguerrotypes of the dead, two tragic love stories, romantic poetry, and a couple ghosts for good measure. Quite readable, I finished it in just two sittings. If you like the kind of book where one character promises to tell a story over five nights, this is a book that will make you happy.

While it's quite successful, ultimately I think there may be one too many pieces in this puzzle. It definitely keeps the plot moving forward with a few different mysterious threads to pull on, but the heart of it can get a bit lost with all the different parts. Still, I'm a sucker for a gothic novel and even if it doesn't quite go full melodrama it was a fun book to get lost in for a bit.
Profile Image for Andrea Bartz.
Author 6 books1,891 followers
September 20, 2018
I loved this eerie and atmospheric debut! I read an ARC, and the rich prose and beautifully drawn characters totally transported me to the 19th Century. It follows Robert Highstead, who makes daguerrotypes of the dead and whose existence from the start somehow straddles the world of the living and the dead. He's forced to confront his dark past, and what unfolds feels like a Russian nesting doll of storytelling and imagination. If you like carefully researched, poetically written books that feel like magical realism and historical fiction all at once, you'll love THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS.
Profile Image for Mary Sharratt.
Author 12 books466 followers
April 5, 2019
Kris Waldherr’s THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is an exquisitely crafted literary gothic. With its labyrinthine twists and turns, it evokes the dark mysteries of the classic Victorian ghost story in all its brooding, atmospheric glory. A riveting, addictive read. Sarah Waters fans will be entranced.

Profile Image for Sherry.
Author 24 books421 followers
December 17, 2018
Kris Wadherr's forthcoming novel kept me on edge, wanting to learn the secrets of Hugh de Bonne and his beloved Ada. This riveting novel expertly dances on the line between reality and fantasy, blurring distinctions so that anything seems possible. A terrific book!
Profile Image for Julia Phillips.
Author 2 books1,364 followers
November 3, 2018
What a rich, precise world Kris Waldherr has created here – what an astounding accomplishment!
Profile Image for K.A. Doore.
Author 5 books164 followers
November 19, 2018
Well, Waldherr wasn't fucking kidding about the ghosts.

The Lost History of Dreams is haunting in nearly every aspect of the word. The ghosts live in the pages, breathing between the words, and the story lingers well beyond the last page. At its core, this is a story about love, but it's a story told through generations, decades, and layers of lies. It's the story of a famed poet and the people who loved him and came to understand him, if not forgive. It's the story of a widower, who clings to death instead of life. And it's the story of a woman who just wants to be seen - and all the ways in which she is haunted instead.

Robert Highstead, a daguerreotypist nee Ovid historian still sees the world around him as a historian would, with a need for grounding, for evidence, and an aversion to allowing just any story to come out. Yet he also sees the world through the grimy lens of his daguerreotype, distorted by loss and grief. Haunted by his past and present, and unable to create a story from either, he must nevertheless transcribe the story of the late Ada, wife of the famous (and also late) poet Hugh de Bonne.

But in the telling - and transcribing - of Ada's story it's soon apparent that nothing is quite what it seems. Every perspective is a different story, and every story is a little bit haunted.

Waldherr layers and folds and layers again story upon story, myth upon legend upon wish, with a thick Gothic atmosphere and an almost ephemeral humanity.
Profile Image for Bookish Ally.
513 reviews49 followers
July 5, 2019
If you’re looking for a mawkish melodrama trying it’s best to be gothic, this book is for you. It has a couple of intimate scenes that had me cringing, I do see others appreciation of it, and if I could edit about half of it completely out, it could be readable. The idea behind the book is good but this was a miss for me.
Profile Image for Clarissa.
Author 4 books166 followers
July 10, 2019
_The Lost History of Dreams_ plunges the reader into a sumptuous feast for all the senses. It begins with a relatively simple task for post-mortem photographer Robert Highstead: he must transport his dead cousin’s remains for burial in a chapel on the moors of Shropshire. However, his journey gradually builds into a gorgeous gothic nightmare reminiscent of pre-Raphaelite paintings and dark Victorian novels. Isabelle, the enigmatic woman who holds the key (both literally and figuratively) to the chapel, thwarts Robert at every turn. Is she who she claims to be?

_Lost History_ cleverly depicts the confining roles women of the era were forced to play through the perspective of the novel’s empathetic but very Victorian male protagonist. This creepily delicious tale will rob readers of their sleep as it asks and answers its own question: "'How can there be so much beauty in this world amid so much sorrow?' The only solution was to create more beauty." With this novel, Waldherr has done exactly that. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Erin Bartels.
Author 22 books767 followers
November 11, 2019
This brooding, atmospheric story within a story is reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale. From the smoke-filled streets of London to the snow-filled hollows of the Black Forest, from sunny France to cloudy England, from city to country to hotel to stained-glass chapel, every step along the way is fraught with deep meaning and, very often, deception. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Poe, Byron, or Brontë. Looking forward to Kris Waldherr's next one.
Profile Image for Layne.
Author 5 books1,181 followers
June 20, 2020
This book feels like it could be a centuries-old literary classic rediscovered after years of obscurity, but at the same time it’s thoroughly fresh and modern. I was completely captivated by the gorgeous writing and Gothic atmosphere, and the central mystery kept me guessing until the final chapter. Kris Waldherr is a masterful storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!
Profile Image for Erica Boyce.
Author 2 books56 followers
November 2, 2018
It felt like I was holding my breath through the entirety of this book! Waldherr does an excellent job of building suspense, twists, and turns, and it wasn't long before I had a hard time putting THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS down. She does a beautiful job of painting a detailed world with nuanced characters and fascinating backstories. The ending was perfect and wonderfully satisfying.
Profile Image for Diane McPhail.
Author 4 books323 followers
March 3, 2019
Kris Waldherr has achieved in her debut novel much that veteran writers still strive for. This book is many things at once. It is a gothic mystery, a layering of story within story, a complex interweaving of character and plot, and a ghost story unlike most. It is complete with a Victorian volume of epic poetry with a cult following, built with reference to Ovid. Relationships between and among characters, living and dead, revolve around a magnificent stained glass chapel secreted in the forest which has never been unlocked. But what is hidden within it? And is it the shrine it is purported to be? Perhaps the most fulfilling element of Waldherr's is that it is the dead, the ghosts, who lead the living toward life and a highly satisfying ending.
Profile Image for James Charlesworth.
Author 1 book19 followers
February 24, 2019
Gorgeously atmospheric, full of hauntingly beautiful prose and complexly interwoven storylines, The Lost History of Dreams conveys from its opening pages that not everything in the world of this novel is what it seems. What follows is a masterful juggling act of truth and invention and delusion, full of layered stories within stories, hidden identities, and unreliable narrators—along with a healthy dose of the supernatural and a gothic Victorian sensibility. It’s a thrilling ride, yes. But what sets Kris Waldherr’s debut novel apart is the assuredness with which these narrative pieces come together in a conclusion both intellectually satisfying and emotionally moving.
Profile Image for Dawnny.
Author 1 book29 followers
April 9, 2019
Set in Victorian England this is a gothic tale with two story plots. You learn about post-mortem photography,stained glass windows and a mystery that compelled me with all of the twists. The characters, the darkness and the ghostly creepiness in this tale of love and loss is a true gothic classic. Lyrical and poetic. A stunning debut.
Novels N Latte Blog
Hudson Valley NY
Profile Image for Catherine.
406 reviews136 followers
December 13, 2019
"All love stories are ghost stories."

If you love gothic fiction and historical fiction, you want to read this book. This is one of the best books I've read this year (so far I've read 147 books this year and gave five stars to 32 of them).

Set in Victorian England, all the elements for a good gothic fiction are here: the death of a poet, Hugh de Bonne, whose last book title was The Lost History of Dreams. An abandoned glass chapel built by the poet when his wife, Ada, died. A historian, Robert Highstead, who became a post-mortem photographer and has to transport the remains of the poet in said chapel. Ada's niece, Isabelle, who will only open the chapel to Robert if he agrees to record and publish the story of her aunt's marriage. Over the course of five nights, Isabelle tells the story of what really happened, but also makes Robert confronts his own past.

This is a deeply atmospheric book with beautiful writing. A story of love, grief, secrets, a collision between past and present, between truth and fiction. As the mystery unfolds, the compelling characters written by Waldherr explore and confront themes that are resonant and universal to all human beings.
Profile Image for Sarah Mac.
1,099 reviews
May 27, 2020
An excellent read that combines elements from Victorian & Romantic gothics, as well as macabre, surreal, & sensation; the feel is similar to THE THIRTEENTH TALE, THE OBSERVATIONS, Sarah Waters, Wilkie Collins short stories, + Poe. (NB: Waldherr mentions POSSESSION in her notes, & I can see why...but this book is very accessible, as opposed to Byatt's impenetrable overly-erudite style, which I detest. :P So don't let that comparison scare you.) Despite the inspiration, I wouldn't classify this as pastiche -- the voice is elegant but modern, a very 21st-c take on Victoriana. The author has also illustrated for Tarot cards, & you can feel her passion for visual framing; such condensed imagery & symbolism carries over into her prose.

There's a lot you could pick through so far as dissecting themes & imagery, but I'll stick with one major thread: the way the story muddles paranormal vs reality. There's legit supernatural here, but where is the line between literal ghosts & metaphorical haunting? The novel is packed with questionable understanding of inner world vs external forces; it's a feast of Duality on multiple levels, which is quite possibly my favorite trope in Gothic fiction. We also see a love letter to Dark(tm) like the overgrown chapel, crows, storms, moldering houses, untended roses...yet there's beauty & happiness in such dark images, compared to the subtle menace of bright beauty hiding awfulness & selfishness beneath it -- exemplified by the destruction that Hugh can't help spreading through his life. Yes, the Romantics created beautiful poetry -- but they were dumpster fires in their personal lives, & the succeeding generation can't avoid being tainted.

One final thought: Waldherr is self-deprecating about the poetry she created for the pseudo-Romantic epigraphs, but I quite enjoyed them. They rang true to the era & were appealing in their own right. My favorite bit:

Alone, I turn to find her thus:
Her dark hair asunder with nested
Sparrow. Her shoulders artless
Yet garbed with Dove and Ibis.

[pg 170]


This was a fabulous literary gothic. I loved it & will definitely look for more by Waldherr. 5 shiny stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Cate.
372 reviews3 followers
April 20, 2019
Oh, good grief. This is a gothic tale, we know this because it takes place in England. Robert, the protagonist, must bring his cousin’s body to Shropshire. If you don’t know where Shropshire is, don’t worry, you’ll be told several times over — it’s near Wales! And it rains there. A very lot of rain. That’s because it’s a creepy tale involving a body and traveling to Shropshire and learning a family story of the famed poet Hugh de Bonne. Never heard of him? Don’t know his poetry? You’ll feel like he really existed from all the lines of his poems strewn about the story like a pile of .... whoops, you get to read gothic-inspired poetry! Plus, ghosts! Plus gems like this:
“Virgin or not, her lips felt like sun-warmed velvet....”

Displaying 1 - 30 of 346 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.