Friday, October 9, 2009

Review #15: The Seance by John Harwood

Title: The Seance

Author: John Harwood
Genre: Literature
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Hardcover checked out from library

Rating: 4/5

Open this book and the first line on the inside jacket cover is this: "Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt, if you will: but never live there..."

Um, got me! It doesn't take the upcoming Halloween holiday to get me in the mood for a haunted house story. I'm in this mood all year round and this book had it all. I discovered it from another one of you lovely book bloggers and because I can be such a disorganized mess full of lists upon lists of books, I don't remember who mentioned it. Thank you to whomever you are, if you read this. I took your recommendation and ran!

So here's the little recap description from the book itself:
"Constance Langton grows up in a hosuehold marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance's sister, the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a seance; perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her own legacy bequest that will blight her life."

My review:
This book is much more layered than the description touches on. Through and through, it is a ghost story but it is not only Constance's ghost story. It starts out with her, then you find she is connected to a family that has a very tragic and troubled history. That history plays itself out at, of course, a haunted house; Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion on the English countryside.

Oh boy!

So you find out all about the various members of the Wraxford family and how it all ties into Constance. The story is broken into six narratives told from different view points. This style can be hard to read, if, in my opinion, it is not done well. It is nice to read a linear story line and the jumping back and forth can be difficult for some readers. The author, in this case, did a good job of bringing it all together so you didn't feel like you were completely starting over each chapter.

The main link to all of the characters is their abilities and interest in communicating with the dead. Wraxford Hall has seen some troubled times. Death?...Murder?...Unexplained disappearances?....Ghosts? The stories become an interest to many and a case to solve and exploit.

How is Constance connected? What happened at this house?

The author does a good job of setting a suspenseful, haunting scene; describing the house, the woods around it and the mood of Victorian England in the late 1800s. The climax of the story happens during a seance that takes place at the mansion. No spoilers, I promise.

This is a good read for the Halloween season. Not a full 5 review, though not for any particular reason. I would not rush out and BUY this book but I did really enjoy it enough to recommend for readers who love a spooky tale.

Happy Reading!

* red headed book child


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

This does sound really good. I love your review on this. I have so many questions after you teaser and this review. I am going to have to look into this book at the store and see if they have it to add to the list.

You have piqued my curiousity. Thanks!

Celticlady's Reviews said...

I had picked this book up at the library and could not get through it. I think I have been reading too much historical novels lately to want to read spooky. I do like a good ghost story though so I may read this at a later date. Good review.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I really enjoyed this book, but Ghost Writer even more. Have you read that one by Harwood?