21.8.09

Review: The Seance by John Harwood


I ordered this book after reading Simon's review over at Savidge Reads and it came just in time for my holiday. I have to say that a cruise ship in the Mediterranean sunshine is probably not the best environment in which to read a Victorian mystery but it certainly didn't spoil it!
We meet the character of Constance Langton in 1881, she lives in a darkly, depressing home. Her father shows no interest in her and her mother is grief-stricken over the loss of her other daughter, Alma. It is her mother's grief which leads Constance to attend a seance and the consequences are grave, leaving her utterly alone in the world. As she struggles to contemplate the future, she is told the news that she is to inherit Wraxford Hall; a sinister estate with a mysterious and extremely murky past. This inheritance only serves to take Constance into an even darker world of apparitions, murder and blackmail.
John Harwood has created such an air of mystery and suspense and it permeates throughout the whole book. I constantly felt as though something or someone was lurking in the shadows and nothing was what it seemed. The story has many twists and turns as Harwood highlights aspects of society at the time, especially the vulnerable position of women. The two central female characters go through extreme unhappiness due to male figures in their life and the power that they wield over them.
It was extremely interesting to read about spiritualism in the Victorian period and it reminded me of Affinity by Sarah Waters which also deals with this subject. Interestingly, I don't think that people's views and opinions have changed that much; it's just that now you can openly voice your beliefs without the threat of being locked up in an asylum.
As I've said before, I love books that include a big, old, country house and Wraxford Hall with its crumbling facade and disappearing occupants is just perfect! I think that I will definitely read this book again; Harwood weaves a brilliant story and whilst it didn't scare me out of my wits, it certainly did send the odd shiver down my spine!

9 comments:

bookalicious said...

OMG, what an amazing cover!!!!! The plot sounds great too and I'll probably order this one because I simply must have such a stunning book in my collection, hehe!
Glad you enjoyed it!

farmlanebooks said...

I recommended this book to Simon as I loved it so much - I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed it too. I look forward to reading The Ghost Writer soon.

Dot said...

bookalicious- I really loved the cover too, it's really intricate, the book is definitely worth a read!

farmlanebooks- I thought it was excellent, I haven't read his other book but I hope to do so soon.

Melody said...

I've this book in my pile and I love this cover!! Mine is a different cover but I don't care as long as the story is good!! I'm really looking forward to reading this after reading The Ghost Writer and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Dot said...

Melody- it really is a lovely cover! I hope that you enjoy it, I've not read The Ghost Writer, going to try and get a copy as I thought this one was really good!

Diane said...

I loved The Seance and Ghostwritten by Harwood--he's good! Great review.

Dot said...

Diane- Thank you, I am going to have to get hold of a copy of The Ghost Writer, loads of people have said how good it is!

savidgereads said...

You are right its not the scariest book at all but I do think its a brilliant plot. Very much a modern sensational novel... speaking of which you must join in with Sensational September!

Dot said...

Simon- Ooh Sensational September sounds interesting, I shall pop over and have a look!

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