It has been so long since the last time I smelled these pages! Metaphorically speaking, of course; please, don’t panic.) Life (and, more often, my own mind; alas!) get in the way. It’s not as though I’ve stopped reading, no. I promise you I’ve put in as many “prone hours” with my nose in some form of a book as I could ambitiously hope to. I’ve just … stopped writing about the things I do read. As a matter of fact, words and I seem to be facing a relationship crisis currently. But like everything else in life this too, I’m sure, shall pass.
In the meantime, it has recently been pointed out to me that I, a voracious devourer of reviews, am becoming increasingly ungenerous in the sharing of them. Perhaps, that’s due to the very strange relationship I share with book reviews? (I very rarely read both a book and its review. Why? Of course, I have no idea.) Nonetheless, I can tell that you, our dear, kind friends have all been very generous in your appreciation of the blog in our absence. We cannot thank you enough for that!
And before you begin thinking I’m only going to ramble aimlessly through this post I shall come quickly (a-hum) to the book I want to talk about today.
I stumbled across The Visitant quite by accident and honestly, I think I was mostly attracted by the interesting grey and bluish cover and then, a moment later, by the promise of a crumbling Venetian palazzo haunted by a ghost. How delicious! Besides, I am, I confess, sadly obsessed by the idea of Venice. Throw in a crumbling palazzo or two (haunted or not) and I’m a goner.
However, from the very first, any romantic notions one might have cherished of Venice are rudely squashed. It is grey, rainy, soggy and filthy, we are told. OK, perhaps, I overstate the matter. Nonetheless, as our heroine’s gondola draws up to the scene of action and a door that’s firmly shut in her face, you feel sure something’s about to happen here. (Or maybe that’s just me and my obsession for old crumbling buildings.)
Through the ensuing tale what I liked most was the sense of atmosphere that she managed to create. I think that’s an elusive quality in most books and often it can do most of the creator’s work by sending the reader’s imagination into overdrive all by itself. Everything is shrouded in an obscuring mist through which sinister looking characters drift in and out periodically; and the book abounds in those. Nobody seems to like our poor heroine; least of all, herself. She does, in my opinion, carry a lot of needless baggage but then that’s the best part, I suppose, of having a 19th century heroine; you can burden them with as much sensibility as you please. Besides, people in any day and age don’t really need a reason to bash themselves up, do they?
As for the ghost: I think the author’s greatest success there is in keeping the mystery alive. It’s clear there is a ghost (and not just because it says so on the cover) which seems in the most part to be malicious. But it’s hard to be able to tell what it is the ghost wants exactly. However, what makes it all deliciously sublime is the fervour with which the residents of the palazzo seem to encourage the “visitation”; going so far as to preserve the scene of action as some kind of a mausoleum. Add to it a mesmeric canal of water placed strategically under a window and the stage is set for somebody to kill themselves. However, it doesn’t happen. And if you want to know what does happen you’re going to have to read the book. C’mon! I’m not going to spoil the book for you!
Over all, if you ask me, Ms Chance’s Visitant is worth meeting. A book I thoroughly enjoyed and will unhesitatingly give a 5/5.
Now, if only I could learn to create atmosphere like her. Any tips?