ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

'Ghostwalk' And 'Her Fearful Symmetry:' Reviews Of Two Novels About Ghosts

Updated on December 4, 2011

 

This hub is Part One of a three part series about ghosts. This hub will be reviews of two novels featuring ghosts as major plot devices. Part Two will be reviews of two nonfiction books dealing with ghosts. The last part will be two ghost stories from my family, including my thoughts about these stories, especially in light of some of this recent reading I’ve been doing.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

 

This novel takes place mostly in London, and features a ghost as one of the main characters. In the beginning of the novel we meet Elsbeth, middle aged and terminally ill. Perhaps to the reader’s surprise, Elsbeth doesn’t disappear from the story at her death, but remains as a ghost, even managing to find ways to interact with the living characters. Niffenegger also wrote the Time Traveler’s Wife, and this is another story about love complicated by otherworldly events. Elsbeth’s lover grieves their separation deeply, but reconnecting with her in the form of a ghost turns out to be complicated. In the same building as the ghost and her living lover, a man suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder loses his wife because she cannot stand his behavior any longer, especially his refusal to take medication. The OCD man and his estranged wife become the subplot of the novel, and I think a very effective foil for the ghost story. Also in this mix are Elsbeth’s American nieces. Though she never met the girls while alive, Elsbeth left her flat to them, on condition they would live in it for at least a year. So the novel puts all these characters into one building: two men grieving lost loves, two naïve American sisters, and a ghost.

 

I found the prose of Her Fearful Symmetry lovely. The portrayal of grief is especially vivid. The complexity of relationships of all types is beautifully shown: romantic love, sibling tension, jealousy, parental attachment, friendship, dynamics of subtle and not so subtle domination. Though I enjoyed the book, and think it is well worth reading, I couldn’t help feeling the author was rushed at the end. About two thirds of the way through, some plot details didn’t ring true. This is a shame, because there is so much of value here. I ended up feeling that the subplot was more successful than the main plot: the story of the OCD man and his struggle to overcome his disability and win back his wife never falters.

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott

Ghostwalk takes on a real five century old mystery. Issac Newton, brilliant Cambridge scholar, was under a great deal of pressure to give up his studies and return to the family business. Out of money, he needed a Cambridge Fellowship to continue his academic career; unfortunately, all posts were filled. Then a rash of odd deaths hit the Cambridge Fellows. Falls down stairs, drownings late at night. All of the deaths could be explained as accidents, but one has to admit the convenience of it all is striking. Was Newton involved? He gained one of the now empty seats, and so built his brilliant career. No one has ever been able to prove anything, one way or another.

The novel begins in present day Cambridge, where an elderly scholar is finishing a book about Newton. She is secretive about her writing, but drops hints she has solved the mystery of Newton’s involvement with the Cambridge Fellow’s deaths. When she dies before completing the book, her son asks (of all people) his former mistress to finish the research and bring the book to publication. Of course we run into all sorts of complications here, what with the former lovers rekindling their affair, and a ghost making its malevolent presence felt. Is the ghost Sir Issac Newton, trying to protect his reputation posthumously? Or is it one of Newton’s contemporaries? Or is this all some illusion created by the shadowy and violent animal rights group which has inexplicably taken an interest in this scholarly work? The tension in Ghostwalk builds seamlessly, and mysteries ghostly and romantic resolve in believable ways.

I highly recommend both these novels. Both blend the supernatural and the material world with skill.

 

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)