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Conversations with Spirits Paperback – 10 Oct 2013
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A comic mystery novel exploring the murky world of spiritualism in the Great War. Nominated for The Guardian / Edinburgh Book Festival ‘First Book Award’ 2014.
About the Author
When Edward Oliver Higgins is not decorating the furniture of London's least popular saloon bars, you're likely to find him hiking around rural Hertfordshire, ruining a perfectly decent pair of brogues.
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The tale is set in 1917, but the War hovers around like a London fog, influencing the characters without directly touching them. It is true that the massive loss of life did encourage a belief in spiritualists among the bereaved, as well as many ‘backroom shysters’ determined to prey on them for profit. And Trelawney is also haunted, the presence of his wife never far away:
"It is far more painful to awake from a beautiful slumber and – in that brief period when the continuity of life is still lost to you – to reach across the bed for a hand that is not there."
So, have the years of drinking sufficiently dulled one of England’s most famous intellects to the point of being unable to unravel the facts? Will he be forced to admit that there are things in the world that logic alone can’t explain? Rest assured that even if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is picking up the (considerable) tab for the adventures, Trelawney won’t be able to resist little digs at his benefactor. The Hound of the Baskervilles one is priceless.
I completely adored this book: the story, the wit, the characters - especially the main chap, Trelawney Hart. His apparent genius is often supressed by his eternal desire for cherry brandy, which he consumes in extraordinarily large quantities.
The writing is first class, you can almost imagine the clinking of glasses in the numerous bars that Hart visits. And everyone can enjoy the Sherlock Holmes references without being an avid fan; Conan Doyle's appearance is entirely convincing in his capacity as advocate to the spiritualist world, even Harry Price of The Borley Rectory 'fame' makes his presence known - simply brilliant.
My only regret? Not buying the hardback version.
So why have I not given the book a top mark?
I am not the one to say that a book was too short. I'm always happy to finish it, close it, but retain something of it to carry around and think about. I have had a bad run of books recently and even a thriller I read ("Last Will" by Liza Marklund) didn't seem interesting, let alone exciting, as a thriller should. On this level "Conversations with Spirits" works well and I'd argue it's clearly superior to Marklund's book because it really engaged me. But what was left when I finished reading it? Nothing that I could carry around and ponder about. It was just a story - well told, but just a story.
A really good story that is well written and completely transported me back in time.
I felt a huge amount of empathy for the main character and was disappointed when I finished the book.
Being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle, this book was right up my street!
His powers of logical, and mathematics, combined with a strange request from Arthur Conan-Doyle provide him an opportunity, however unwelcome, to re-engage, and see the sites of Kent.
EO Higgins has written a wonderful book with well-drawn characters, and evocative of a time where mysticism and science were still clashing. Also loved the brief mention of Bromley! A lovely read, and can't wait for the next one.
!!!Update, must have been my kindle, seems pages in order now, apologies and hope to continue enjoying the book!
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