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Angelica: A Novel [Paperback]

Arthur Phillips
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 12 2008
From the bestselling author of The Egyptologist and Prague comes an even more accomplished and entirely surprising new novel. Angelica is a spellbinding Victorian ghost story, an intriguing literary and psychological puzzle, and a meditation on marriage, childhood, memory, and fear.

The novel opens in London, in the 1880s, with the Barton household on the brink of collapse. Mother, father, and daughter provoke one another, consciously and unconsciously, and a horrifying crisis is triggered. As the family’s tragedy is told several times from different perspectives, events are recast and sympathies shift.
In the dark of night, a chilling sexual spectre is making its way through the house, hovering over the sleeping girl and terrorizing her fragile mother. Are these visions real, or is there something more sinister, and more human, to fear? A spiritualist is summoned to cleanse the place of its terrors, but with her arrival the complexities of motive and desire only multiply. The mother’s failing health and the father’s many secrets fuel the growing conflicts, while the daughter flirts dangerously with truth and fantasy.

While Angelica is reminiscent of such classic horror tales as The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, it is also a thoroughly modern exploration of identity, reality, and love. Set at the dawn of psychoanalysis and the peak of spiritualism’s acceptance, Angelica is also an evocative historical novel that explores the timeless human hunger for certainty.

Angelica, Arthur Phillip's spellbinding third book, cements this young novelist's reputation as one of the best writers in America, a storyteller who combines Nabokovian wit and subtlety with a narrative urgency that rivals Stephen King"  –Washington Post

From the Hardcover edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Set in Victorian England, Phillips's impressive third novel uses four linked viewpoints to explore class, gender, family dynamics, sexuality and sciences both real and fraudulent, ancient and newly minted. Joseph Barton, a London biological researcher, orders his four-year-old daughter, Angelica, who's been sleeping in her parents' bedroom, to her own room. Joseph's wife, Constance, resists this separation from her child and the resumption of a marital intimacy that, given her history of miscarriage, may threaten her life. Soon Constance notices foul odors, furniture cracks and a blue specter that appears to attack Angelica while she sleeps. When she reports these supernatural visitations to the unimaginative Joseph, the rift between them widens. Desperate, Constance turns to actress-turned-spiritualist Annie Montague for help. Phillips (Prague) captures period diction and detail brilliantly. At its strongest, the multiple-viewpoint narration yields psychological depth and a number of clever surprises; at its weakest, it can slow the book's momentum to an uncomfortably slow (if authentically Victorian) pace. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Following multiple pregnancies with dire outcomes, Angelica is finally born to Joseph and Constance Barton, and after a rough beginning, mother and daughter bond. When Angelica turns four, Joseph announces that it is time for the child's bed to be moved to her own room. Alone with her husband, Constance fears his amorous attentions; the doctors have warned her that another pregnancy would be lethal. Constance notices apparitions in Angelica's bedroom while her daughter sleeps. Seeking guidance, she enlists a spiritualist, Anne Montague. But Anne is more of a psychologist than a mystic, and her intuition tells her that the ghosts are a manifestation of Constance's subconscious awareness of Joseph's harmful intentions toward the child. In a Turn of the Screw- like exercise, best-selling author Phillips (Prague , 2002, The Egyptologist ,2004) expertly depicts the repressiveness of the Victorian era, well attuned as he is to the subtle and dramatic transformation of familial roles that occur when a child is introduced into the family dynamic. Phillips re-tells the same events from four perspectives (a la Rashomon) , revealing just enough information each time to change the reader's allegiances. Benjamin Segedin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1.0 out of 5 stars victoria, au secours! July 17 2011
Et encore un roman victorien ! La mode en a été lancée par le succès de "La rose pourpre et le lys" de Michel Faber. Un gros livre, bien épais : 423 pages pour celui-ci, c'est déjà mieux que les 1142 pages du roman de Faber, mais c'est encore beaucoup trop par rapport à la matière du roman. Des phrases alambiquées, sans doute pour imiter le style de l'époque (?), et des personnages aux sombres penchants, tout en mensonges et en cachotteries. Résultat : on n'y comprend strictement rien ! Angelica est une charmante fillette de 10 ans, très belle et très intelligente, dont le papa décide un jour qu'elle ne doit plus dormir dans le lit conjugal, qui n'est pas destiné à ça. En gros, voilà la trame de l'histoire. Là-dessus se greffe, comme c'est de rigueur aujourd'hui quand on veut faire un gros bouquin, une vision éclatée de l'histoire, à travers la mère (Constance), le père (Joseph) et une étrange personne (Anne), qui va s'installer at home (ça se passe en Angleterre !) sous le prétexte de faire disparaître les mauvais esprits qui hantent la maison (en fait elle ne pense qu'à rançonner la crédule Constance). Qui divague, qui dit la vérité ? Bien entendu on ne le saura jamais. Constance est-elle folle lorsqu'elle croit que sa fille subit des sévices de la part des esprits ? Joseph, le vivisecteur de Beagles, a-t-il des attouchements avec sa fille, voire pire, lorsqu'il vient lui parler seul à seule ? Et que pense de tout ça Angelica ? Le lecteur peut tout imaginer et n'a qu'à remplir lui-même les pages manquantes. Franchement, pour lire victorien, mieux vaut se régaler avec "Tess d'Urberville" (Thomas Hardy). C'est en poche en plus...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling book -- great for book clubs, too April 12 2007
By A Fussy reader - Published on
I tried to read Arthur Phillip's last novel THE EGYPTOLOGIST but found the narrator and subject matter both daunting. I am so glad I did not give up on him because ANGELICA is one of the best novels I've read in a long long time. With his multiple narrators, Phillips demonstrates a rare ability to captures brilliantly the mind of both female and male characters but I was particularly moved by this ability to show the vulnerability of women in the Victorian era. It does not surprise me that reviewers have compared this novel not only with Henry James but with the haunting classic novel The Yellow Wallpaper by early feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This is surely the first novel by Phillips that I would recommend whole heartedly to my book group (and we are fussy!!).
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Novel April 13 2007
By Francie - Published on
It's rare that a contemporary writer can offer a compelling plot and such marvelous language skills that his reader is totally transported to another place and time. Phillips does exactly that with his latest novel, ANGELICA. I was drawn in with the opening sentence and completely fascinated until the last paragraph. It's a wonderful read, filled with insights - both historical and psychological - and will be perfect for my book club to discuss.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best work yet April 12 2007
By A Reading Writer - Published on
I've read all three of Arthur Phillips's books and liked each one more than the last. Any moments of uneveness evident in "Prague" had disappeared by the time he wrote "The Egyptologist." It is rare in this disposable era to watch a writer grow into his talent, but that is exactly what Phillips has done. "Angelica" is a stellar, completely assured work. Whether you like Victorian ghost stories or just strong writing, this is your book.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Achievement April 12 2007
By Laurie Viera Rigler - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
ANGELICA is a book I could not put down. I could have finished it in two days but saved the last thirty pages for the following day, because I didn't want it to end. Aside from the masterful storytelling that gave me all the suspense and excitement of a good read, this is a brilliant and thought-provoking book on several levels. It is a deeply important book that explores the nature of reality, memory, and identity. If you are a woman, it is a must-read. It addresses our deepest secrets and our worst fears in a most imaginative and insightful manner. I still can hardly believe a man wrote this book. He is clearly a tremendously compassionate person who has done a great service by writing this book. I could discusss ANGELICA for hours--which makes it a perfect book group choice.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Entertainment April 19 2007
By Page Turner - Published on
I'm using "entertainment" in the way it would have been used in the world of the novel - applicable to high art as well as low. First and foremost, the book is a terrific read. Phillips holds his cards close for a while, but once you get a glimpse, you can't wait to see what else is in his hand. The writing achieves a pitch-perfect evocation of nineteenth-century novels, with moments of startling brilliance.

Phillips is after more than a clever and compelling plot, however, engaging profound questions concerning the nature of perception, the dynamics of family, and the obstacles to self-knowledge. The book will unsettle you - in the way any ambitious work of art should.
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