Monday 21 October 2013

Halloween Feature The Blackheath Séance Parlour by Alan Williams

Kicking off my Halloween feature is my review of The Blackheath Séance Parlour and this had Halloween written all over it. This was written just like the gothic novels of the 1800's which I thought was brilliantly clever of the author.

In 1842, two sisters drunkenly debate their future, their family chocolate business has failed and so they decide to open a seance parlour. The locals are shocked but soon their shop is crammed with people wanting to contact the dead. Despite their change in fortune, a rift forms between the sisters, as young sister Judy gets her novel published, finds a man and proves to be more capable of contacting spirits than Maggie. Spurred on by jealousy, Maggie tries harder and soon even the Queen is consulting her. The Church decides they must be stopped by any means possible.

There are three different, interlinking stories in this and each of them had me hooked. First there's the main story with Maggie and Judy and setting up their séance parlour, then there was the book that Judy was writing, which you get to read snippets of as you go through the book. And lastly there was Nettie's story, the medium that they recruit, which also had me gripped.

The main story is set around Maggie and Judy. Their Chocolate Shop business is struggling and they are constantly hungry. After a big debate between the two sisters and Judy taking charge, they set up a Séance Parlour, much to Maggie's initial disgust. But we get the sense that it is more than just that and that Maggie is actually hiding something. Also it is the start of something very dangerous for Maggie which I did not expect out of the two sisters and sibling rivalry rears its ugly head.

Séance Parlours were all the rage in the 1800's and I believe the author is alluding to the real life Fox sisters who started the popularity of séance parlours back in the 1840's. I also think this because the Fox sisters had a drinking problem and Judy and Maggie definitely seemed to like their drink!

I was particularly gripped by Judy's story of Klaus Van Dayne and his experiments. Sometimes though, my imagination went a bit overboard with what was being described and felt a bit ill thinking about it! But I'm just quite a squeemish person when it comes to things to do with the body! It definitely reminded me of Frankenstein! It also told me how wild Judy's imagination was.

Even though this story is set in the 1800's, it still had a modern twist to it and the dialogue between characters was readable. It wasn't all dark either, there was some humour in this and I was instantly absorbed in this gothic story.

This was such an original book for me and I'm so pleased the author didn't turn around and reveal the spirits and all the spooky happenings as false as some have done before! The descriptions in this also brilliantly conveyed the dark other worldly goings on and the atmosphere of the book had me feeling like I was right there with the sisters!

Fantastically spooky, gripping and gothic! A great read for Halloween!


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