Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Angelica by Arthur Phillips

On the surface, Angelica seems simple enough: a classic take on the Victorian ghost story, with a slight psychological twist. The plot revolves around a young mother in Victorian England who begins to suspect that her daughter is being haunted by a vengeful ghost. But what begins as a simple Victorian thriller spins out to be a complex and thought-provoking study of human relationships and the delicate nature of the human psyche.

The book starts from the point of view of Constance Barton. Her young daughter, Angelica, is finally being sent to stay in her own room, after having spent the first four years of her young life sleeping in her parents' room. The move is more traumatic to Constance as a mother than it is for her young daughter. Angelica is Constance's only child, after a painful series of ill-fated pregnancies. She also serves as Constance's protection from intimacy with her husband Joseph: Constance has been warned that having further children will kill her, and as a result she fears her husband's touch.

On Angelica's first night in her own room, Constance wakes in the middle of the night, feeling uneasy and bothered by a slightly noxious smell. She follows it to the door of her daughter's room, peers in and sees a ghostly sight: a faint blue glow hovering over her daughter. Thus begins Constance's battle with nightly terrors, and the reader's journey into wonder: What is Constance seeing? Is it truly a ghost? Is Constance stress and terror over the separation from her daughter causing hallucinations? Or is something even more sinister at work?

When Constance's story reaches its pinnacle, the novel takes an unexpected turn: the story turns back on itself, and begins again, only this time from the perspective of Anne Montague, a medium whom Constance called upon for help. Things first seen from Constance's perspective are now shown in a new light: conversations have a new depth, events a slight twist. Angelica's haunting is seen with a fresh eye and new suspicions: the mystery expands as new details are revealed. Anne's tale then spins to a close to reveal the same tale again, this time from Joseph's point of view. The book closes with the recollections of Angelica herself.

The effect of a story told in four parts, over and over again, from a different perspective is an unusual one: a fifth perspective is created. That fifth perspective is that of us, the reader. Following the tale as told by four separate voices, one cannot help but tell the tale to themselves, thus creating one's own private interprations of events. The result is a tale both engaging and thought provoking, one that will stay with a reader long after the book is done.

Angelica is one of those rare books that, when you close the cover on the final page, you can't help but see the world in a new light.

Who am I? And why are you reading me?

Welcome to my little spot on the Internet! After idly reading other people's blogs for ages and ages, I decided it was time to be a lemming and start my own blog of random musings.

I have to confess, though, that I live a very boring life with not much excitement in it. I'd wondered for a while what on earth to blog about, without much success, until just the other day inspiration struck! While my life is fairly boring, I liven things up by reading, reading, and reading. To say I am an avid reader would be an understatement- I am never without a book, never. So, I thought I would blog about the books I read, or rather, those books I feel merit blogging about (I'll spare you the boring ones!). Occasionally, I might even comment on movies, TV shows, and other random occurrences in my life, as the mood strikes me.

Beyond all that, who am I really? Well, that's a secret! But, as my name suggests, I am indeed a librarian (hence the love of books), but that "witty" part is up for debate. I am also happily married to Andrew and have two adorable fuzzy children, Caesar and Pompey (they're cats, so they are suppose to be fuzzy).

So that's me, and this is my blog. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you'll find a good book or two or a dozen (and remember, all books are available at your local library!).