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The Haunted Woman (Canongate Classics) Paperback – 1 Jan 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; New Ed edition (1 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0862411629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0862411626
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 569,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By on 14 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
This was David Lindsay's second book after 'A Voyage to Arcturus'. As the reading public had not responded to the grim metaphysical vision revealed in his first (and greatest) novel, he decided to bring his vision 'down to earth'. And so 'The Haunted Woman' is set, not on a strange planet, but in 1920's Brighton, and its characters are not alien cyphers but recognisable members of human society. The plot revolves around a strange house with an interdimensional upper storey reached by a phantom staircase. The heroine, engaged to a conventional businessman, finds herself strangely drawn both to the house and its owner, Mr Judge. The rigid mores of society keep them apart, but when they accidentally meet each other in the phantom upper storey of Judge's house, they recognise the fact that they are soul-mates and fall in love. The tragedy lies in the fact that when they return to the lower levels of the house, they cannot remember anything that took place in the rooms above. This bare outline of the plot cannot possibly convey the book's strange atmosphere. Reading it is a curious experience as it seems to operate on two different levels. One one level it is a conventional story of 'star-crossed lovers' set in 1920's England, with its associated intrigues and an interesting evocation of a vanished era; but on another level (when the action shifts to the weird upper storey of the ancient house) it becomes something else --- but what that 'something else' is, I must leave the reader to decide. One thing I guarantee, the book will haunt you for a long, long time after you have read it. David Lindsay was utterly unique as a writer, and this book is one of his best.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a story in its own right this is a brief, if interesting little novel, focussing on the romantic soul-searchings of the leisured classes, in the lost era of the 1920's, but with a twist of mystery that sets it apart. The mystery involves a house with rooms and staircases that are sometimes there and sometimes not, and lead to other places in another world. As such, it is a clear forerunner of C.S.Lewis's wardrobe into Narnia. Lewis indeed was one of the first literary minds to comprehend Lindsay's significance. But, less hopeful than Lewis, events and particularly emotions, in this other world are so incompatible with our own that only tragedy can result from their interaction.

Read as a sequel to Lindsay's allegorical masterpiece A Voyage To Arcturus (Fantasy Masterworks) the book takes on whole new dimensions as it becomes apparent that it constitutes a deeper exploration of the issues raised in the poetically tragic Sullenbode episode of Arcturus. The allegory works like this; there is a sublime alternate world of which this one is a shabby and mundane shadow. In that world romantic Love between man and woman assumes a passion and, above all, a truth and a baring and sharing of soul that makes the love of this mundane world a twisted sham, distorted by manners and compromise. When a man and woman who have experienced love in the sublime world return to this one, thay 'forget' what has passed between them, but are left with baffling clues that something has passed and the knowledge that what has passed may completely upset and destroy all their plans and relationships in the mundane.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Simon Thomas VINE VOICE on 1 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
The Haunted Woman is a type of novel I love, where life is normal except for one fantastical element. In this case it is a staircase, which gets me interested immediately. Think this might be a rather specialist interest, but I love staircases in literature.

I'll quote the blurb from my copy of The Haunted Woman:

Engaged to a decent but unexceptional man, Isbel Loment leads an empty life, moving with her aunt from hotel to hotel. She is perverse and prickly with untapped resources of character and sensibility. They explore by chance a strange house and there Isbel meets Judge, its owner; a profoundly disturbing relationship develops and it is from this that the drama unfolds.

They obviously don't want to give the staircase bit away, but I shall - there is a staircase which offers three doors at the top. Isbel takes one of them, which leads to a room, where she meets Judge again. When they return to the main house, neither remember what has taken place in the room. And so it goes on, with parallel existences and relationships. All the way throughout the novel there is the mystery of what remains behind the other doors...

David Lindsay's writing is sometimes criticised for not being very fluid or well styled, but I just found it took a little getting used to - sure, he's not Virginia Woolf, but I didn't find it stood out as awful. And, for me, the plot and intrigue and characters more than make up for this. I sometimes love books for language, regardless of plot (e.g. Tove Jansson's writing) but equally sometimes plot takes precedence over language. And Lindsay manages to combine the two in a way which leads to a beautiful surrealism by the end, and produces a novel which is quite unlike anything else I've ever read. Give it a try.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A haunting fantasy from a forgotten English writer 16 Sept. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is the second novel from the author of 'A Voyage to Arcturus'. It is set in English middle-class society in the 1920's, but a thread of weird, metaphysical fantasy runs through it, making it as much of an oddity (albeit in a more conventional setting) than the author's first work. It is a strange, subtle book; and for those who are used to modern fantasy literature, it may come as something of a disappointment. But David Lindsay's vision of a higher reality is so compelling that even in this lesser work, it shines through, making the experience of reading the book a memorable one. One strange thing about this book is its 'haunting' quality. After the initial reading you may very well put it aside, thinking you will soon forget it ..... but you won't. I guarantee it! I would be pleased to hear from any devotees of David Lindsay's work. My E-mail address is
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A truly haunting novel 6 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have always been fascinated by Lindsay's "A Voyage to Arcturus", an incredible, allegory. However, a few years ago, I read his "Devil's Tor", (his final work), and found it ponderous. Not so "The Haunted Woman." It was thoroughly entertaining. This book ranks with some of the best fantasies in mood and mystery. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a work so much.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The world of Ulf's Tower is a haunting experience! 30 Nov. 1999
By Paul Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have just finished "The Haunted Woman" and "enjoyed" it, if that is the right word, very much! I have also read Sellin's book and Wolfe's book on Lindsay recently. Sellin believed that the musician in THW was Crystalman. I don't agree. The world of the musician, who was probably Ulf in one sense, contrasted our world of convention and superficiality. The world of Ulf's tower was a step closer to Muspel light, to use words from Arcturus. I do not think that Lindsay is trying to say the exact same thing in every book. It would be easy for reviewers to look at each subsequent work through the lens of Arcturus. We have to give lindsay more credit than that. Isbel ends up moving back to what her life was before. She says if Marshall can endure her then she should be able to endure him, Lindsay's view on how most human relationships are, expressed quite succinctly. The world of Ulf's tower in "The Haunted Woman" was mysterious and powefully presented by Lindsay. In part the book is a cry against the phony conventionality and superficial nature of the world man, not Crystalman, has created. The last seventy or so pages I couldn't put the book down. It races to a heart pounding climax. It really makes you wonder about what we call real in our everyday existance with it's TV and malls and a whole host of other artificial barnacles on our short lives. "The Haunted Woman"? Yes Isbel was haunted by her experience and so shall the reader be haunted by this book. I know I shall be!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Days of future passed 18 April 2014
By still searching - Published on
Format: Paperback
Isbel Loment is a spoiled rather bored woman, in her early twenties, who lives with her relatively elderly widowed and wealthy aunt and who is is engaged to the ‘right’ man. She lives the slightly cloistered middle class life of a well brought up girl between the wars and superficially appears to have a ‘perfect’ middle class life planned out for her. And yet, she feels vaguely dissatisfied, moving as she does, with her aunt, from one hotel to another in search of the right house. Marshall, Isbel’s fiancé, is a somewhat staid stockbroker recently returned from America on business during which journey he meets a recently widowed middle-aged English industrialist, Henry Judge, with a house that might ‘fit the bill’ for Isbel and her aunt. The house, Runhill Court, is in West Sussex, quite close to where the women are staying in Brighton, and is ancient, having first been built by a Saxon nobleman named Ulf.

Marshall agrees to contact the owner and arrange for them to visit. In advance of the visit Marshall relates a story about the house told to him by Judge regarding a strange room on one of the upper floors of the house that can only accessed by a phantom staircase that appears abruptly now and again and vanishes just as quickly. Her interest piqued Isbel is keen to visit. When she does she hears music playing: someone is playing a piano and she recognizes the music as an ascending scale in the first movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony. Suddenly she has an awareness of ‘other times’; a feeling that ‘this is not all there is’ as if lifted above the trivia of her everyday existence into a new realm of greater intensity. Separated from her fiancé, who has wandered off during her reverie, she ascends to an upper floor and enters a room. There she meets a man who turns out to be Judge the owner. Immediately they experience a strong mutual attraction but realize they must leave and return to normality.

Isbel is shaken by her experience and though she remembers little of her encounter in the upper room is left with echoes of the feeling experienced there and intuitively feels that it has something to do with Judge who appears to be just another middle-aged man to her outside the seemingly mystical room. It is as if the room has enabled her to ‘connect’ with life as it should be lived.

The book is beautifully written and although some have remarked that the style is a bit awkward and stilted in places that was not my experience. I will certainly re-read it after a suitable time period: it reminds me of another book written about ten years previously by another shamefully and long neglected English writer, Claude Houghton, who also wrote similar meta-physical fantasies such as the exquisite, I am Jonathan Scrivener. Lyndsey is far better remembered for his science fiction fantasy, Voyage to Arcturus, but The Haunted Woman certainly deserves to be equally well regarded.

The only modern writer I have experienced who comes close to evoking the same sense of other-worldliness is, somewhat bizarrely, given the differences in period and cultural background, Haruki Murakami.

But on reflection, perhaps this isn’t as strange as it may at first seem!
the literary equivalent of a Rubik's Cube 20 Sept. 2014
By JJ Vladimir - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After birthing the phantasmagorical opus of "Voyage to Arcturus," David Lindsay switched gears with "The Haunted Woman." It is a quieter, subtler work than its predecessor, and at the same time more unnerving. On the surface, the novel is comprised of conversations between a handful of characters and descriptions of a country house. But behind this veneer is a web-work of cross purposes and hidden agendas. For me the key concept is the use of the house's architecture as a metaphor for identity. Our identities are manifold, Lindsay seems to say. We find ourselves in different rooms of our persona depending on who we are interacting with, what strategy we are following at a given moment, and where we stand in relation to time. The architecture of the house reflects this shifting multiplicity. A stairway appears out of nowhere, becoming visible to some but not to others. Characters rendezvous in a secret room, behave in ways unlike their normal selves, and afterward forget they ever met. The title of the book slyly underlines the connection between architecture and identity. Instead of a haunted house, we have a haunted woman.

Of course I could be totally wrong. "The Haunted Woman" invites and supports multiple interpretations. Towards the novel's end, Lindsay gives the reader a glimpse of a profound yet ambiguous vision. Is this vision a symbolic shorthand for some aspect of his metaphysics? Or is it merely a solar flare of his imagination, included to provide a momentary dazzle? The novel's real triumph is that it keeps the reader guessing about what it all means. It is the literary equivalent of a Rubik's Cube.
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