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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.
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.