The Seance by John Harwood


A girl with a tragic past inherits a crumbling house whose previous owners have all disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

The Victorian era saw a mania for Spiritualism, a practice in which people would consult a medium during group sessions, and attempt to contact their departed loved ones. The tricks and practices that mediums undertook to dupe people out of their money, or the wonderfully creepy stories of the unexplainable make for fascinating reading. This novel takes that milieu and places a haunted house, strange disappearances, experiments with lightening, hypnotism, romance and mystery at it’s centre.

In imitation of novels like Bram Stokers Dracula or Wilkie Collins The Woman in White, the novel is told in parts, sections written by the characters, as documents that slowly piece together the mystery and tell individual perspectives of the narrative, though these documents are read by the main character who has inherited the property. I found it odd that the blurb didn’t point this out, and found it a little jarring because I wasn’t expecting it, though it works beautifully.

It’s a good story, a fun imitation of the novels of the time, with plenty of twists in the narrative and a yearning, sad quality as the characters live with the losses in their lives that have led them to this point. It’s an interesting look at how people can be manipulated or tricked into believing what they want to believe, though that’s not to say that every event can be explained away by science…

Read It If: you like Victorian sensationalist novels, mysteries or the paranormal.

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