Book Reviews

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

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List Price: £16.99


Hardcover: 384 Pages.

Published: 05 October 2017 by Jo Fletcher Books

ISBN: 1786485257

EAN: 9781786485250

Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Adelina - Vita - Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible.

Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Vita, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results. Vita starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism . . . and a desperate need to escape.

Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of séances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Vita and save her.

But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind . . .


2.0 Stars2.0 Stars  by Debra Found

Bit of a Mess

Set in the Victorian Era, Nathaniel Kerner starts work as a Doctor in a remote Yorkshire asylum. He becomes deeply involved with a private patient, Vita Harleston, even following her when she runs away to London.

I am going to start with the good points of this book - there aren't that many but it was enough to lift this from a 1 star to a 2 star. The background and setting of the book is quite reasonable. I did get the sense of the Victorian way of life, the asylum and Victorian London. This wasn't outstanding and didn't show quite the depth of research that I would expect from a historical novel but it was better than many books. The sense of the Victorian world was present.

Unfortunately, there is little else positive to say. The book started reasonably in the first section if quite slowly. We are in Yorkshire following Dr Kerner as he tries treatments for Vita. It all starts to go off course when Kerner brings in a mesmerist to treat Vita. At this point the book wanders off into the rather woolly world of psychics, the dead and mesmerism. This doesn't have to be a woolly topic in the fictional world as Barbara Erskine's "The Mesmerist" shows. However this book just disolved into a woolly mess where neither the reader nor the characters seemed to have a clue what was going on or what was real and what was spiritual.

 The second section of the book features some time in London where Dr Kerner is seeking an escaped Vita. To be blunt this was total drivel. There are pages of mushy thoughts about poetry which I skimmed over and were totally unnecessary. The actions of the characters are quite unpredictable and unlikely. Dr Kerner attends the same performance at the Egyptian Hall three times & each time rushes out very quickly after its start into foggy London nights to wander around aimlessly and have strange conversations with unlikely people he meets there.  The reader is subjected to such phrases as "I just knew it would be her" - oh good, would you mind explaining how you knew to this slightly bewildered reader?

Once we were back in Yorkshire the writer got the strange poetical ramblings a little under control but I am afraid the plot just did not improve. The ending came as a bit of a relief though I am left with a lot of unanswered questions, unlikely happenings and loose threads.

This book is really a bit of a mess. Even with some serious editing there is little in the way of depth to the plot to make this a good book. This is not an author that I would be in any hurry to read again.

I received a free book via Netgalley.

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