Book - 2002
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Margaret Prior, assigned to visit the women's ward of Victorian London's Millbank prison as part of her rehabilitative charity work for a suicide attempt, is drawn into a dark romance with spiritualist Selina Dawes who has been jailed after a seance she was conducting went horribly wrong.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2002.
ISBN: 9781573228732
Characteristics: 351 p. ;,21 cm.


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May 26, 2019

This book is like nothing (or at least almost nothing) I have read before. The narrative style is an alternation of Margaret's diary and Selina's memories, and there are many fascinating details about Victorian life in a rich house and inside a prison. I read it because I thought it was a Gothic book, with all its talk about medium and Spiritualism. Well, it is Gothic - feminist Gothic - in a way, for the role of women, but not exactly what you would expect. To say more would be to spoil the plot, but I can add that the story talks about Margaret Prior, a Lady Visitor at Millbank Prison in Victorian London, and her infatuation for Selina Dowes, a medium incarcerated because accused of the death of her benefactor. Selina seems to be a very powerful medium, able to materialize a spirit, Peter Quick, and to tolerate prison life thanks to the gifts of her spirit friends. But, but... perhaps not everything is what it seems. The story is a bit sluggish at first, but in the second half it really goes fast and we are so completely taken by it that we don't stop a second to consider how simply impossible some things really are. The ending seems to be open to interpretation, but if you decide to watch the movie, you will find that the director has made some important decisions, adding a finale and some characters. A suggestion: don't watch the movie before reading the book, I made that mistake and regretted it a lot. Happy reading!

Nov 17, 2013

This started off rather slow for me and I was almost ready to abandon it when Margaret, the narrator, meets Selina Dawes. Suddenly my reading appetite returned and was satisfied all the way to the end, which I didn't see coming.The story is told mostly through Margaret's journal entries which are occasionally interrupted by Selina's shorter accounts of her life as a spiritualist and the events that put her in London's Millbank Prison, which really existed. (The Tate Gallery now occupies part of its former grounds.). I found myself almost willing to suspend reason and believe that the dead can communicate with the living, or at least understand how anyone who has ever lost a loved one could believe in its possibility.

Nov 01, 2010

I am not usually a huge historical fiction reader, but this book is pretty good. It is shorter than some of Waters' other books. The plot is engaging and has some twists, as is her style. Wish they would turn this one into a movie too.

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