Friday, October 16, 2009

The Seance - John Harwood

I've been seriously NEEDING to read this book ever since I heard about it from Jackie and Simon. I loved The Ghost Writer, also written by Harwood, and I needed some spooky reads for my RIP reading challenge as well.

The book opens in 1889 with an introduction to Constance Langton, a teenage girl who, probably because of her distant relationship with her parents, has always imagined herself to be adopted. After her parents die, she inherits a crumbling old Gothic mansion from a relative she never knew she had. She is warned by the family's lawyer to stay away from the hall, as it has been associated with deadly accidents, mysterious disappearances, and rumors of ghost sightings. She would be better off to sell it and move on. But Constance is a headstrong girl, and persists in exploring the history of her long-lost ancestors, and eventually receives from the lawyer several diaries with clues to the hall's sordid past. Has she found the key to determining her suspected parentage? Have there really been disappearances associated with lightning and a suit of armor? Are all the ancestors really dead? Are there malevolent spirits at work, and can they be summoned through a seance? In order to solve the riddle of her own ancestry, she must also find the answers to these questions.

I had a tough time getting traction with this book until about halfway through. (I am prepared to accept full responsibility, and blame it on real life distractions.) This isn't a long book, only a little over 300 pages, but it took me about a week to read. With that said, I did enjoy it. Atmospheric down to the last word, this is a book that could have been written in the Victorian era by Wilkie Collins himself. Every nuance screams "sensationalist". So if this is your genre, you must add this one to your list. I can't say that it was all that scary, but it certainly was creepy and spun an intriguing mystery. The mystery, however, was dispelled fairly abruptly, over the last 50 pages or so, which I think took away some of the aura of the book. On the other hand, with these mysteries solved, Constance finally gets the answers for which she has always yearned.

I wanted to share the following video with you, which features Harwood talking about The Seance, his inspirations for the characters in the book, and his love of Victorian mysteries. (Rest assured - no spoilers.) It is a little over 5 minutes long, but it is worth it. Take a look:





4 out of 5 stars


17 comments:

Andreea said...

I'm currently reading this book:) So far, I must say that I really like it:) Thanks for the video!

Nymeth said...

"This is a book that could have been written in the Victorian era by Wilkie Collins himself."

Say no more! It's too bad that the solution to the mystery was abrupt, but this still sounds like something I really have to read.

farmlanebooks said...

I think I gave it 4/5 too. It is a good spooky story, but it does have a few flaws. Did you think Ghost Writer was better? I haven't read it yet, but do have a copy. I must get round to it soon.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Andreea - It is a great read for October! Can't wait to read your review!

Nymeth - oh, I'd definitely recommend it...even with its few flaws!

Jackie - I'd like to say The Ghost Writer is a better book, but it has been years since I've read it. I think I've gotten a little pickier since then. Still, I did love it!

Molly said...

I need to try at least one of these author's books if he is reminiscent of Wilkie Collins!

Beth F said...

Do I need to grow up and get over my problems with scary books? Hummm...

Iliana said...

I really want to read this book. I'm all about seances - so curious about them! :)

My current reads have also featured some seances. Must be that time of the year for all things spooky I guess! haha...

Anna said...

I'll keep this in mind for when I'm in the mood for creepy!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Amy said...

This sounds like a good one in the scary reads genre! It's also very similar to a movie I saw on TV last year but can't remember the name right now. hrumph! I am seriously deficient in the scary department and haven't read much since a college class on books like this. I'm putting this on my TBR list since you, Jackie and Simon liked it, readers with impeccable taste :o) but I still want to read Wilkie Collins foirst...and soon!

Dar said...

Another one on my shelf that I'd love to get to. I could use some creepy right now.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Molly - I guess I'm not an expert on Wilkie, but the atmosphere totally reminded me of books written in that era.

Beth - hee hee. If you did, I'd be so proud of you! Seriously, I don't think this one would do you much damage.

Iliana - Seances are very interesting. They are really all about the insecurities of the people attending them, and telling them what they want to hear. This book definitely talks about all fo that. I think you would like it!

Anna - it is a great, creepy book. Perfect for this time of year!

Amy - yes, me too. After I finish Her Fearful Symmetry, I'm heading right into The Woman in White!

Dar - Isn't it funny how you get in that mood! I've been in that mood for two months. I need at least one more month before Halloween to squeeze in all my spooky reads!

savidgereads said...

I am sooooo pleased that you liked this book and thank you so much for popping that video up in your post as I have never seen that and its very very interesting, especially in conjuncture with my sensation season, thanks Sandy!

Nicole said...

I just finished reading this this past week, and I got lost in it as well. I think I got into it quickly but half way through it meandered and I think tried to do too much and then rushed the ending. I will probably still want to read the Ghostwriter, but much less urgently.

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you enjoyed this one, Sandy. I loved The Ghostwriter and have been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it. Thank you for the great review and for sharing the interview clip with us!

Melody said...

I'm looking forward to reading this!

So I take it that The Ghost Writer is better than this one? ;)

Matt said...

I've got this book on my Halloween reading list. Looks like it's going to be another read-a-thon for me that weekend. :)

Alice Teh said...

I'll keep this book in mind.