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I am glad she became a better writer than this .....
on 6 February 2017
This was originally published in 1994 and has been described as a Gothic novel and also as a ghost story. It does not come up to the mark for either of those. I think the writer was encouraged to re-work it and ‘try again’ for the 2004 re-issue. She was not sure herself whether it was worth salvaging.
I read perhaps the first 100 pages with some interest, although it seemed to offer no more than the genuine Victorian melodramas from the actual period. Modernisation means that it ‘hints’ less, and goes into detail more, about the perversions of ‘gentlemen’ of that period. Especially as it relates to the abuse of young girls. Of course, that criminal depravity is not confined to the 19th century!
The book is over-long and increasingly becomes a confusing mish mash, with every element thrown in that you can imagine, including women magically transforming themselves to take on other persona. I did baulk at that. Much of the plot (there isn’t much really) is predictable. You know that tragedy lies ahead for young Effie.
Fanny and Mose are fairly one-dimensional characters with simplistic motivation. Mose is the stereotypical Victorian villain, but less intelligent than they are usually portrayed. Fanny, in particular, is decidedly too weird for the brothel madam she is. A simpler revenge would have been more credible for her. Henry’s diatribes and long, guilt-laden internal monologues are repetitive and very boring. Each of these four characters get chapters from their particular viewpoint, which slices up the chronology.
Both Effie and Henry wallow in drugs (Yes, I know about addiction, realised or otherwise, in the 19th century) and this helps to muddy things further in trying to make the action, characterisation and plot development etc. more explicable.
I kept going (speed reading the last 150 pages) although not sure why I felt that I should, except that I have enjoyed some of Joanne Harris’s books. ‘Gentlemen and Players’ is on another, much higher level, for example. ‘Blueeyed Boy’ is certainly more intelligent. One caveat on the latter book being, please, no more unreliable narrators – the derivatives are endless and still going on!
I cannot recommend ‘Sleep, Pale Sister’, however, not even to her fans.