The Bone Flower by Charles Lambert
This is a book that is a really powerful Victorian gothic thriller written in the faster paced style of more contemporary times. It features a young man whose capacity to find love with a woman changes his life and shapes the lives of those around him. There are chilling descriptions of visions, realisations and events that may make this a book for daytime reading as they are so vivid and memorable. The characters described are well introduced and consistent, even if they are not at the forefront of the action for some time. The male characters are arguably better developed than the female, but the women are nonetheless strong presences in the novel and are probably more sophisticated elements in the story. It is a novel drawn in the shadows, on the edge of sight, in the background where more the frightening characters lurk, where nightmares and dreams abound. The clever element of bringing in characters from another culture gives the novel depth and the suggestion of what may be going on. Altogether this is a vividly written novel, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The central character in the novel is Edward, a wealthy young man who is seeking a direction for his life as the novel begins. Despite his time at Cambridge he is not worldly wise, and he is first observed listening intently to the older men at his club telling of their travels. Impressed by the ideas of spiritualism, he agrees to attend a séance with some of the men. As he enters the venue he sees a young woman selling flowers, who strikes him as very memorable. Later she gives him flowers, and hints that she may agree to meet him. Everything about the girl is elusive and unusual, and while Edward is quickly obsessed with her and she seems to return his love, he realises that there is a problem in her background. While he is estranged from his father, he knows that he will not accept the girl as a daughter in law, despite the depth of the relationship. What happens next is tragic and full of horror that causes shock to both the character and the reader. The subsequent story causes the reader to reflect the borderline between life and death, what is seen and unseen, and the effects of betrayal. Most of the narrative relates to Edward’s progress and how he reacts to events, atmosphere and more, but the author gives excellent detail to the reactions of other characters and in at least one case, the loyalty of friendship.
This is a very effectively written novel that creates a real sense of other worldly and difficult to explain elements of the story in its descriptions of Edward’s experiences. It conveys the sights, sounds and even smells of everything from foul odours to orange blossom, just as the visions of the past reminds Edward of past actions. There are gentle hints of humour, especially in connection with the wonderful George, which offer some relief from the darkness of much else which is going on. This book conveys the power of personality in many ways, as well as the effects of mental strain on the characters. I found this a fascinating read, which I would definitely recommend as a ghost story with real impact in so many ways.