Haunting, compelling and remarkable, this is a book for anyone who is fascinated by the edges of life, memory and the power of the mind. The setting, a large house which itself seems to have memories, exerts its power throughout on those who live in and around it through the years. Vague suggestions, extreme hatred and twists dominate the narrative, even if at times there is a little over working of the idea. Clever changes of the point of view ensure that the reader is left in no doubt as to who is really guilty, and who knows what is going on in a community with high ideals but dealing with forces beyond control. Suspicion and hard facts form a story which has a potential to linger in the mind. I found this an interesting book and I was glad to have an opportunity to read it as part a tour.
Ali and Jack are shown arriving at Rosalind House, a community of ill matched people led by the quiet but intuitive Smeaton Dunsmore, who are apparently trying to find a way to live together. On the surface this is a gentle, self – sufficient life style, with hints of an ill – defined spiritual dimension as the emphasis on peaceful existence is set out in a handbook. It soon becomes obvious that one of the people has her own agenda of discovering what exactly has happened in the house and grounds before, and how best to find out what is left behind by people who suffered trauma. While Ali’s exploration of the house allows the reader to witness some of the supernatural elements of life left behind, her own unnatural level of concern for Jack means that she obviously feels they have something to hide. How she deals with such minute introspection is one of the dynamics of the book, as well as the interface with the other residents, who appear to feel uncomfortable by her evident influence over Jack. Angela in particular finds Ali and Jack a troubling yet intriguing intrusion into both the building and community, and it is in their interaction that the heart of the story emerges.
I felt that there were several important themes emerging through this novel, and certainly the reader’s interest and involvement is maintained until the last page. I was not always certain how much of the novel is realistic, but the author’s background seems to guarantee that much of the narrative is viable. This is a memorable book with a highly original premise; certainly the house as a character is well done and disturbing at the right level. The community is perhaps a little too idealistic, and there is a little overwriting of some elements, but this is a confidently handled book with the author writing a compelling if disquieting narrative. While some of the characters are extreme, the nature of the book is such that this is necessary to fulfil its early promise. Altogether an impressive read, this is a strong book for lovers of the supernatural and the suggestion that there are no easy explanations for human relationships.
So life at the Vicarage continues as we gear up for Christmas. I am madly trying to find nativity scenes/ cribs for next week. Every year we try and put on a display in the church, but every one I buy seems to be small and difficult to display effectively. This is of course not the case with the knitted nativity sets that a much loved Aunt used to produce, which had the advantage of being quite child resistant! I hope that we get a few of these offered, as my sets are showing their age…