John Harwood is the author of two previous novels of Victorian Gothic suspense. Aside from fiction, his published work includes biography, poetry, political journalism and literary history. His acclaimed first novel, The Ghost Writer, won the International Horror Guild's First Novel Award. He lives in Hobart, Australia.
Sly nods to spooky literary spinsters-Henry James's Miss Jessel and Dickens's Miss Havisham-set the tone for this confident debut, a gothic suspense novel with a metatextual spin. Gerard Freeman grows up on the windswept southern coast of Australia in the late 20th century with a controlling mother strangely silent about the details of her childhood in England. His only solace is steadfast English pen friend, Alice, to whom he confides everything. What was Gerard's mother, Phyllis, hoping to escape when she left England? The protagonist slowly pieces together his mother's past with the aid of short stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola. These cunning tales, filled with supernatural occurrences and s?ances, are seamlessly embedded in the main narrative, offering Gerard-and readers-enticing clues into his troubled family's history. After Phyllis's death, her newly liberated son travels to England, hoping to learn more and to pursue elusive Alice. As he searches through the country house his mother inhabited long ago, Gerard finds past and present fusing in horrifying fashion. In the hands of a lesser novelist, sustaining several plot lines might have been difficult. But the novel links textual investigation and sublimated passion, building to a satisfying, unexpected ending. Agent, Kathleen Anderson. (July) Forecast: This A.S. Byatt-lite offering will appeal to the A&E set and to horror/suspense readers looking for something with a literary edge. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Harwood's compelling first novel speaks of love, family, and obsession. Since age 14, Australian Gerard Freeman has been corresponding with pen pal Alice Jessel and dreams of one day visiting her in England, in spite of his mother's disapproval. Alice, confined to a wheelchair, refuses to meet or even talk on the phone with Gerard until she can walk again. While snooping in his mother's dresser one day, Gerard finds a ghost story written by his grandmother Viola. Over time, he finds more stories, all eerily reminiscent of his family history but written years before the events actually happened. What is going on? Will he ever find his beloved Alice, or will family tragedies somehow stand in their way? Harwood's well-drawn characters and Gothic plot propel the reader toward the novel's denouement. Including the text of Viola's stories adds to the surreal drama, as they serve as untrustworthy flashbacks and help blur the line between fantasy and reality. Strongly recommended for all but the smallest public libraries.-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"By the last page, all loose ends have been tied up, but the
uncanny still clings to everything."
--Laura Miller "Salon.com "
PRAISE FOR THE GHOST WRITER
"[Harwood's] novel is an homage, a Victorian ghost story that honors the likes of Dickens and Henry James . . . A smart, stylish and mesmerizing book."-THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
"Does [Alice] have some connection to Gerard's creepy,
semi-insane mom? And to those Victorian horror tales that Gerard
keeps stumbling across? What's she hiding, anyway? The answers are
yes, yes, and wait and see . . . It's like A. S. Byatt's
Possession. But without all that distracting poetry."-TIME
--Laura Miller "Talk of the Nation "