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The Victorian chaise-longue [Hardcover]

Marghanita Laski
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The charming, childish wife of a successful lawyer falls asleep one afternoon on her Victorian chaise longue, recently purchased in an antique shop, and wakes in the fetid atmosphere of an ugly, over-furnished room she has never seen before. This is the story of a trip backwards in time in which a nostalgia for the quaint turns into a hideous nightmare.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Cresset P; First UK Edition edition (1953)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0000CINP5
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,931,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Publisher

This ‘slim, brilliant, very scary novel’ (John Sandoe Books) came out in 1953, four years after Little Boy Lost (No. 28); it is about a young married woman who lies down on a chaise-longue and wakes to find herself imprisoned in the body of her alter ego ninety years before. It impressed PDJames, author of the Preface, ‘as one of the most skilfully told and terrifying short novels of its decade.’ And Penelope Lively described it in the PQ as ‘disturbing and compulsive’, commenting: ‘This is time-travel fiction, but with a difference. . . instead of making it into a form of adventure, what Marghanita Laski has done is to propose that such an experience would be the ultimate terror. . . so Melanie/Milly clings to the belief that she is dreaming for as long as she possibly can; the point at which she is forced to abandon this comfort and search for other explanations is her plunge into nightmare. ‘In the stifling, menacing atmosphere in which Melanie finds herself there is another dark, unspoken theme. Sex. Milly has been in some way disgraced. . . Once again the chaise-longue is the hinge between the two planes of existence. The site of rapture, of ecstasy – that is the implication.’ --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Marghanita Laski was born in 1915 to a family of Jewish intellectuals in Manchester; Harold Laski, the socialist thinker, was her uncle. She is the author of six novels and a celebrated critic. She wrote books on Jane Austen and George Eliot and two books on the nature of ecstasy. She died in 1988. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victorian horror 20 Feb 2001
By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE
Most readers of classic Victorian fiction have surely wished that they could be transported back to the slower pace and more refined lifestyle of the nineteenth century. After reading this novel, you will never wish that again. First published in 1953, this is the story of Melanie, a rather spoilt young woman recovering from TB (still a threat only fifty years ago). Melanie goes to sleep one afternoon on a Victorian chaise-longue she picked up in an antique shop, and wakes up as Milly, a young woman in the nineteenth century. The horror comes from the fact that Melanie is still Melanie, with all her twentieth-century knowledge, yet she is trapped in another woman's body, a woman who has transgressed in some unspecified way. The sights and smells of the period are vivid- the butter which has gone slightly rancid, the smell of clothes which are never thoroughly washed. When Melanie can no longer delude herself that she is dreaming, the terror of her situation becomes overwhelming. This slight novel is written in a spare, matter-of-fact style which only makes the story more believable. The Victorian atmosphere- overcrowded, stuffy, suffocating- is beautifully evoked. Another wonderful reprint from Persephone.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling novella 12 May 2009
I had never heard of either this title or the author when this disturbing novella arrived through my letterbox as a surprise gift from a friend. That was my loss, as I think it is one of the most chilling and evocative `ghost' stories I have read.

The plot is quite simple - the protagonist, Melanie, a rather shallow convalescent, is transported via an old chaise longue back to Victorian times and into the body of a young woman named Milly. The mastery, however, lies in Laski's skill at evoking Melanie's sense of dislocation, which she does through a myriad of sensory details and emotional reactions. This contrast - between her cosseted life in `the present' and the disgrace and threatening contempt that hangs over her in her Victorian life - is well executed.

Her confusion is shared by the reader - at first, you wonder like her whether the situation she experiences is a by-product of her recent illness, a feverish dream, but you also end up sharing her increasingly claustrophobic sense of horror as both you and Melanie realise that she is trapped in what for her (as for any of us) is a nightmarish world, separated from those she knows and loves.

I am surprised that this novella isn't better known; like Charlotte Perkin Gilman's `The Yellow Wallpaper', it is an excellent example of the `Female Gothic' genre and would provide a deep source of investigation for students of literature.

But that is merely an aside, for the work is a beautifully written work of `supernatural fiction'; I use the latter term in inverted commas, because although the text defies easy categorisation and despite the `time travel' element, it does seem written within that tradition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I tracked this book down a few weeks ago after reading a review recently and being curious due to several points: 1) it is partly set in Victorian times 2) someone mentioned a feeling of similarity to Rosemary's Baby which is a book I read about 20 years ago and loved!

So, on to the book. Short at 124 pages this only took me a few hours to read. The story starts with Melanie who has been bed-bound for over a year due to having T.B. She gave birth to her son months before but hasn't been able to see him because of her illness and she is bored and longing to live a normal life again. Melanie has clearly been spoilt and doted on and this is really apparant in the way those around her deal with her. The books beginning is with the Doctor finally allowing her to have a change of secenry and lie on the huge Victorian chaise-longue in the drawing room. Melanie recounts how she found the seat in a antique shop and was immediately drawn to it although she was unable to expalin why. One happily settled in her new surroundings and lying on the chaise-longue she settles down for a sleep......

Melanie wakes up to unfamiliar smells and surroundings (save for the chaise-longue) and finds herself being looked after by a lady in long skirts and who insists on calling her Milly. We watch Melanie struggle as it dawns on her that she is not dreaming and is, in fact, alive and (not so) well in the year 1864. Again, bed ridden with T.B. she can do nothing other than to try and persuade the small cast of characters that she isn't Milly and doesn't belong there. Laski uses the supporting cast to hint at trouble, secrets and shame in Milly's life and we watch her try to piece together what has happened to her.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, chilling, and brilliant 19 Mar 2011
By Suzie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
At just 99 pages, this is a little gem that leaves you with so much to think about. Melanie, spoilt and indulged, is not a character you particularly warm to but you'll soon be drawn into her nightmare, willing her somehow to escape it. On the morning of an appointment in the early 1950s with the Harley Street specialist who diagnoses TB, she arrived early so wandered into an antique shop. In the basement, she was drawn to an ugly Victorian chaise-longue and experiences only "her body's need to lie on the Victorian chaise-longue, that, and an overwhelming assurance, or was it a memory, of another body that painfully crushed hers into the berlin-wool."

Months pass before the doctor pronounces her sufficiently recovered to agree a change of scene, whereupon she is carried to the chaise-longue. There she falls asleep. When she wakes up the sunshine and the spring flowers whose appearance she so relished have been displaced by "darkness charged with a faint foul smell." Her body has become that of Milly, suffering from consumption, as TB was then known, almost a century earlier, but her mind is still that of Melanie. Or is it? She longs for her husband Guy to rescue her from this nightmare, just as she seems to recognise Adelaide, the woman who is looking after her, and to know that the portrait of Uncle George on the mantelshelf is in the wrong place.

But Milly, who has a dark secret that is only slowly revealed by hints and innuendo, is dying whereas Melanie was recovering. She must find some strategy to regain her former identity before it is too late. It's creepy, fascinating, horrifying, original, and so real. The details of Victorian times lend such an air of authenticity that the story becomes utterly believable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Beta plus?
This is an interesting period piece; reading it, I could never forget that it was written in the 1950s. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Will Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars A chilling time-travelling ghost-thriller
Reincarnation is based on the idea that when the body dies its essential personality or spirit passes into another body, in another time and place, to live again in a different... Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. A. Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressed
I'm giving this 1 star purely on the basis that the book is advertised as 14. I was charged this plus p&p. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Cee
4.0 out of 5 stars EERIE DREAM
A peculiar work, a well written account of a sort of time travel I think. It works on many levels-I think it ought to at 14 pence per page. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mr. Michael Richard Harris
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointed
Perhaps if it had been longer and the characters more fleshed out and more subplots inserted for interest, this might have been more compelling for me. Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by ladyguinevere
5.0 out of 5 stars A little slice of nightmare
As this book begins, the reader is introduced to Melanie, a 1950s wife and mother who has been confined to her bed since the birth of her child as she was taken ill with... Read more
Published on 10 May 2011 by Katie Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars A Victorian nightmare
Of all the books in the Persephone catalogue this is the one I've been looking forward to reading the most. Read more
Published on 13 Oct 2010 by Helen S
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine a Victorian version of 'Life on Mars' ...
Whilst, browsing one day I thought I'd buy a 'Persephone' book to add to my collection - I couldn't choose, and a friend suggested this superb novella - imagine a Victorian horror... Read more
Published on 10 April 2010 by Annabel Gaskell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Jewel of Horror
`The Victorian Chaise-Longue' was once described as a `little jewel of horror' and that in itself was enough for me to know I might like it a great deal. Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2010 by Simon Savidge Reads
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read
A well written novel. I became totally absorbed in the story right from the start but was very sad when reading the last part of the book. A compelling read. Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2010 by Judi Lyn
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