Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mrs. God by Peter Straub

This is a bizarre little book. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. The story sounded so promising, and I love a good ghost story, that’s what sparked my love of history, but this one...let’s just say that I’m glad it was short and quick.

The story is centered around Esswood House, a grand old English country estate in Lincolnshire, the ancestral seat of the Seneschal family. Great patrons of the literary arts, for more than a hundred years the Seneschals have played host to the likes of Henry James, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, and Ford Madox Ford. As a token of their gratitude, each author has bequeathed manuscripts or personal papers to the estate’s library. Permission to study the papers in their archives is eagerly sought by scholars all over the world, but is hard to come by. Professor William Standish is one of the lucky ones. His almost-grandmother, the first wife of his grandfather, was Isobel Standish, an obscure but brilliant poet, and frequent guest at Esswood House, who published one slim volume of work in 1912. Her personal papers are stored in the library and Standish is over the moon to gain access to them.

But Esswood House harbors secrets. Stories of pale children suffering from a mysterious wasting disease whose spirits still walk, filling the halls with ghostly laughter and the pitter-patter of ghostly little feet. Strange faces appear the library windows and unseen servants serve the same meals for dinner and breakfast every night and morning. Standish is plagued by strange dreams and…here’s where I have to stop this review. Is it all a strange dream, horrifyingly real, some kind of time warp thingy, or does Standish’s mind crack under the pressure? I haven’t a clue. Maybe I missed something? All I know is I would rather read the fishing magazines in my dentist’s office than this book again, and trust me, I’m an indoor girl who couldn’t care less about bait and tackle or whose trout is bigger. Based on other reviews I’ve seen, this is one of those books that people either think is unbelievably brilliant or appallingly bad; so this may be one that it’s better to make your own mind about rather than be guided by anyone else’s opinion. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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