2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Short, chilling, and brilliant,
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This review is from: The Victorian Chaise-longue (Paperback)
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. After reading this, you'll never dare risk drifting off to sleep on an antique chaise-longue or sofa!
As a child in the early '50s I knew of Marghanita Laski (whose name I thought rather exotic in those days) only as a broadcaster - my father used to listen to The Brains Trust on the Home Service, as it was then called. I had no idea that she had ever written fiction but shall now look forward to trying her other novels. This one is a real gem unearthed by Persephone.
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Initial post: 6 Jul 2011 14:51:07 BDT
Eileen Shaw says:
I read this about twenty years ago as an adolescent. I would like to read it again but I daren't let myself get embroiled in that horrible world of approaching death again! Fabulous book, far more creepy and atmospheric than any Stephen King or the like.
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