Title:
Angelica
By:
Arthur Phillips
Pages:
352
Rating:
5

From the bestselling author of The Egyptologist and Prague comes an even more accomplished and entirely surprising new novel. Angelica is a spellbinding Victorian ghost story, an intriguing literary and psychological puzzle, and a meditation on marriage, childhood, memory, and fear.

The novel opens in London, in the 1880s, with the Barton household on the brink of collapse. Mother, father, and daughter provoke one another, consciously and unconsciously, and a horrifying crisis is triggered. As the family’s tragedy is told several times from different perspectives, events are recast and sympathies shift.

In the dark of night, a chilling sexual spectre is making its way through the house, hovering over the sleeping girl and terrorizing her fragile mother. Are these visions real, or is there something more sinister, and more human, to fear? A spiritualist is summoned to cleanse the place of its terrors, but with her arrival the complexities of motive and desire only multiply. The mother’s failing health and the father’s many secrets fuel the growing conflicts, while the daughter flirts dangerously with truth and fantasy.

While Angelica is reminiscent of such classic horror tales as The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, it is also a thoroughly modern exploration of identity, reality, and love. Set at the dawn of psychoanalysis and the peak of spiritualism’s acceptance, Angelica is also an evocative historical novel that explores the timeless human hunger for certainty.

BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Arthur Phillips’s The Tragedy of Arthur, The Song Is You, Prague, and The Egyptologist.

Angelica book cover

“That circumspection was literal: she looked around her as she spoke, as if her lady might somehow be here or crouching near a communicating fireplace elsewhere, as if all London’s hearths were interconnected to spy upon domestics.”

That is worthy of Rowling. The writing here is potent, nuanced, layered and complex. The examination of the events portrayed is most detailed, and the introspection is deftly-done and solid.

“Memories are injected after the fact with subsequent wisdom. Their younger selves, whom we never knew, suddenly appear in our looking glasses, the inconceivable people they were before they conceived us. “

There’s a beauty to the writing, although it’s perhaps a touch more metaphysical than I’m used to. and yet, for all that it’s hard going and requires a level of concentration above your average story, it’s worth the effort because of the rich story and even richer characters. It’s enthralling, haunting, disturbing on a level hard to qualify. A captivating, mesmerizing yarn.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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