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A fine essay in the form,
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This review is from: Prospero's Mirror (Paperback)
I bought this, as an existing fan of M.R.James, on the recommendation of the M.R.James Literary Podcast (A Podcast to the Curious) - they interviewed the author, and it sounded interesting. The book proved to be a gripping and exceedingly dark ghost story, almost a meta fiction, in which MRJ is the main character, experiencing for real the sorts of things he repeatedly inflicted on his fictional avatars.
The book shows MRJ in advancing age, and explores his reactions to ageing, increasing academic isolation, and the First World War. It uses the same toolbox of techniques used by MRJ in his own ghost stories, to try to recreate his distinctive voice - something which is achieved rather patchily, but better by a long chalk than any other attempt I know of - the use of extensive extracts of (fictional) 17th century diaries detailing the progress of the Great Plague in Oxford is brilliantly conceived and superbly realised - to the extent that it is sometimes a little difficult to reconnect with the actual narrative after one of these episodes.
The voice of MRJ is well brought out, though purists may object to some of the aspects of the characterisation (foes of the 'homosexual panic' idea had better plug their ears), and the story is well layered, well structured and fairly well paced, though, as if say, the 'diary' extracts are so compelling (and so long) that the junctions with the main story can feel a little disorienting.
The conclusion is...well...horrible, bleak, deeply unsettling and...very personal. In other words, superb.
Indispensable for MRJ fans, and a damn good read for other creepy-folks.