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Friday, February 19, 2010

Review - The Mist in the Mirror - Susan Hill

My attention was first drawn to Susan Hill by reviews done on The Woman in Black and I expected something on those lines. This book is for me totally different to what I expected.

The story centers around James Monmouth who has spent his entire life in Africa and the Far East fascinated by what those lands reveal. James was born in England but orphaned at the age of five and sent to a guardian in Africa and upto the time of the guardian's death lived a carefree life in Africa. By a series of seemingly unconnected coincidences which are later seen as a link in the story, James is drawn into the life of an adventurer by the name of Vane, who is dead now for many years.

On his return to London James tries to find out more of Vane's personal life and adventures and at every turn is warned off and discouraged to pursue this story. The warnings come from the teachers at the school where Vane studied, to an absolute stranger on a train who warns him not to pursue whatever he is doing (the lady has spells which come on her where she can predict the future) and everyone else who is connected to the story is in turn jittery, nervous and fearful that James is following this path. Despite being followed by a ghostly boy throughout his sojourn in England who in turn terrifies and saddens James, James is determined to pursue his objective to the end and write a memoir of Vane's travels. The story follows James pursuit of the history of Vane and climaxes to the point where James understands the boys' part in the whole story and where he to some extent lays at peace the various ghosts in his life. James's memoirs become finally not Vane's memoirs but his own.

The book has been described as "thoroughly frightening" but I did not find it so. I was curious as to how it will end and it ended tamely enough in the death of James as an old man, at peace in some way as he had been able to narrate the story to someone else and felt that it was a burden he had had lifted from him.

Though a bit disheartened by this book, I am not giving up on Susan Hill but going on to her other books.