on 9 September 2012
Standish is an American academic unhappy with his home and work life, who is offered an unusual and prestigious short-term research posting in England. The post is notorious for rejecting applicants, or worse, accepting and then at the last minute rejecting scholars due to some minor misdemeanour from their past which has been dug up.
Arriving in England, despite a dour locale and surly locals, Standish finds the facility he is to work at a vast elegant mansion set in beautiful grounds, and is a haven of tranquility. He is greeted by a stunningly sensuous and beautiful woman, by whom he is immediately captivated, and who directs him to his room. Everything seems perfect, and his first meal is taken with his sponsor, who announces he is to go away and leave Standish to his own devices; the wonderful food and wonderful wine goes down well.
However things become very strange very quickly. Things are always ready and waiting for him; he only hears, but never sees, the servants, and the kitchens and servant's areas always appear empty. His sleep is racked with nightmares, the floors and corridors of the house seem to change frequently leaving his most and confused until he can find his way back to the room he was seeking.
Peter Straub's novelette "Mrs. God" is a metaphysical horror, where different locations and times coexist; where the world outside the property is bleak, angry and threatening but within is enigmatic, dreamlike and surreal.
Unfortunately parallel with Standish losing his mind in this environment, Straub's writing also becomes a little more chaotic; originally published as a short story, more space for a cohesive narrative would have been welcomed. However it's an engaging and welcome visit to an earlier style of surreal horror.