audio book: 15 hours
*** About the Book ***
It is the late 1800s in England and Margaret Prior is almost recovered from a lengthy "illness" (today we'd call it suicidal depression). To help her think about others rather than herself, her doctor encourages her to be a "lady visitor" to the female prisoners at Millbank Prison nearby. On her first visit she meets a number of the inmates but is strangely drawn to one in particular, Selena Dawes. Dawes, as she is called in prison, is a Spiritualist who is known for making spirits appear in the flesh at her seances. Over the course of the next few months a friendship develops between the two women ... but is it more than a friendship? Is it ... an affinity?
A note on the cover images: Neither of those shown here match the version I listened to; these both make sense based on the book. Unfortunately, my version had a woman lounging in a sheet with her hair all tousled, looking like a prostitute. Definitely not in line with the book at all.
*** Why I Read It ***
I heard about this book in a review at Out of the Blue earlier this year and it caught my attention. When I was looking for a new audio book for my commute, this was available at the library so I checked it out.
*** My Thoughts ***
This story is told in two formats. The main story is told from Margaret's point of view through the journal she keeps. Nothing is told as it happens; the reader only learns things as Margaret records them in her journal. The other part of the story, which occurs a few years before, is told from Selena's point of view, mostly through the book of receipts she keeps for the money "gifted" to her by her "friends" who attend her seances. This format worked well for me. I was drawn into Margaret's story but Selena's parts kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what each tidbit of information might mean.
This is a gothic novel in the truest sense of the word. There are seances and spirits and "magic" and hidden love and oppression and a definite creepiness factor woven throughout. And I LOVED it.
*** About the Audio Book ***
This is a VERY well done audio book. I was completely drawn into the story in a way that I don't think would have happened had I read it. The narrator was Juanita McMahon; I've not listened to her before but I will definitely look for her work again. There is a great deal of "he said" and "she said" repeated over and over in the book but McMahon never let that grow tiresome as it could easily have. Rather she modified her voice in very small ways to indicate who was speaking, even though the "dialogue" was all contained in Margaret's journal. Then there were the parts that were particularly gothic in nature and those actually made my skin crawl to listen to. Not that they were "scary" at all, it's just that the narrator infused her words with the creepy mood so well. I'm not sure I'm making a lot of sense here but just trust me when I say that the audio version is fabulous.
*** Your Thoughts ***
So far I've found two other reviews of this book, both of which say good things about it. If you've reviewed it as well I'd love to add your link here.