The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

somnambulist“My eye was drawn to the far right-hand corner where the shadowy silhouettes of two men were following at a distance, as if fearing to wake her in case she fell. But, I suddenly knew there must be a third man, and I couldn’t believe I’d not noticed before…a second shadow fell over the path, right next to her own, thrown down by the light someone else must be holding, towards which she steadily progressed, and in two or three steps she would surely be saved by whoever was waiting, just out of the frame…”

9895397 (1)

This book is quite an enjoyable rendition of a Victorian sensation novel to me, flourished with backdrop of Wilton Music Hall and references of some famous people and acts of the Era, for instance, George Leybourne with his famous song “Champagne Charlie” and the “contrivance”  of spiritualism. Indeed, this is a difficult read to me at times, with literary references existing throughout the book which kept racking my brains out deducing the symbols and metaphors that the author implies; and acknowledging at times that my English level was incompatible and a hindrance. Still, I could feel the passion and the message that the author conveys in her novel. I think like the same with the painting, the Somnambulist by Millais, everything has two sides of a coin. With the secrets exhumed along in the plot, we could be on one hand appalled towards characters with their misdeeds but feeling their emotions and motivations drive every action and thought in one’s prespectives which resulted in unbearable fates, consequences and conflicts in connection with one another. With that said, it is an enjoyable journey for novel-aholics to dissect strengths and weakness of humankind, and undoubtedly to practice a kindness of empathy in a hostile world when sinful characters in a book voice out a painful confession to us jury so as to seek acquittals and sympathy, like Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, or Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins with his absorbing epistolary writing.

There are interesting matters not related to the book connected to my reading experience. One is the character of Cissy (Mrs Stanhope), the once famous stage singer who returned to perform Acis and Galatea. When I read the first few pages, she reminds me of an actress named Mrs Jordan (1761 – 1816), one of the mistresses of William IV due to the fact that they were both unmarried but calling themselves “Mrs”. Indeed, many contemporary strolling players and theatrical performers need to endure a series of unfortnate events. They both shared high-profile of glamour and glitters on stage but untold tragedy and misery down under. Only Mrs Stanhope has an affair with the proprietor of the Samuel’s Emporium but not the King.

Another matter is the indiscreet act and obsession towards Cissy Stanhope in view of Nathaniel Samuels. This “cringing” fascination, which would be regarded as abnormal pedophiles to date, was prevalent phenomenon of the Victorian time. This relationship reminds me of a biography of Effie Gray by Suzanne Fagance Cooper that mentions a trgic life of one of the Pre-Raphaelite muses and sister of Effie Gray, Sophy. In this biography, the author underlines that the illness Sophy endured throughout her life – anexoria – was triggered by subscious mind of staying in puberty and physical innocence just like her irresistible protrayals in paintings. She died at a young age of 38. Just like the biography, this novel also implies the unspeakable truths and misery underneath the “fairer sex” of the time playing with readers’ minds. I actually feel a kind of prejudgement while reading it when the author in the beginning seems to emphasize the innocuous and virginal physicality of a 17-year-old Phoebe. In this case, I tend to have views towards her own behavior similar to Maud Turner because Pheobe grows an excitable affection toward the opposite sex in a physical way with the revealing sex scenes, which is nothing but opposition of vice to me. However, as it grows out, I could also feel suppression as regards the unfair treatment of men in the physical contact with the “weaker sex”, that the actions are crude indeed.

With the view of her niece and heorine of the story, Phoebe Turner, the curtain rises, going along the novel, her psychological development is underlined along the journey and in this case finding that the secrets are hidden underneath and all that glisters is not gold. What I am also overwhelmed and immersed regarding the Somnambulist is the faith of unversalism and salvation in the story, just like the name of “Stanhope” (Stand hope). It might not always be a religious case, or Christian universalism of the “Hallelujah Army” mentioned in the story and the rivulary between Maud Turner and Cissy Stanhope on one’s advocation of mericful and philanthropic acts against her sister who rots in Hell because of her lascivious vice and theatrical career, but the acknowledged belief of Victorian authors that concatenation of muserable consequences are disguises of silver lining; while the act of valour and virtue are instilled in oneself, blessings will come in the end with the ultimate enlightenment of a brighter hope and strength.

All in all, I think it might be a fair choice to read this book alongside Victorian classics, as you might develop some deep thoughts in mind after reading it.

Advertisements

Dodger by Terry Pratchett (Fencers, Snakesmen, and Toshers)

IMG_20150329_044342

“This is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

IMG_20150406_215441
Reminds me of Pickwick Papers

It is the very first book I read by Terry Pratchett. I might be ashamed of myself having started Dodger rather than Discworld series, but perambulating Victorian London through Dodger’s eyes, it opens my doors of curiosity to embrace the fantastic Discworld. To be frank, I was already deep in thought soon after I read the first line of the dedication page to Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) , “To Henry Mayhew for writing his book” – London Labour and the London Poor – a book which I have longed to read from the first to the last page. “What Dickens did surreptitiously, showing the reality of things via the medium of the novel, Henry Mayhew and his confederates did simply by facts, lots and lots of facts, piling statistics on statistics.” I remember there is a chapter where Mayhew confronts and interviews a little street sweeper, which is indeed overwhelming upon my first glance. In Dodger, Mayhew also appears on pages as one of the major historical characters of Victorian England alongside Mister Charlie Dickens (1812-1870).

IMG_20150406_222210
Author’s acknowledgements

“You are so sharp that you might cut yourself.”

Inspired by Dickens’s novel, Oliver Twist, this book focuses on an eponymous character, Dodger, a youthful, prismatic and adventurous seventeen-year-old tosher (sewer scavenger) living near Seven Dials under the rookeries world and the attic roof of Solomon’s, a Jewish watchmaker with a dog of a funny name called “Onan” (Footnote from Pratchett: the name of “Onan”, if not familiarised with The Bible, get some help from Google, or any priest – possibly a slightly embarrassed one – will help you). Dodger’s former careers before coming to a fabulous tosher is better not to be revealed here, but one day something incredulous incident happens which changes his life forever – the act of saving a damsel in distress could be no big deal and re-enacted all the time in Victorian London; however it is the damsel’s identity,  his resourcefulness and swiftness of grating drain covers which add up together and clash into consecutive heroic acts involving skulduggery and dark plots forthwith. The story is adequately seasoned with the help of bountiful famous accomplices, the fateful fog of London, as well as some playful disguise and camouflage.

“Once upon a time, Marie Jo had told him that with his skills, he should be on the stage, as she had been, but since he knew that actors didn’t get paid very much he had always reckoned that the only reason to be on a stage would be to rob it.”

Punch-Judy-Puppet-631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropConcerning those bountiful famous accomplices who work in concert with Dodger, apart from Henry Mayhew as is mentioned above, there is Mister Charlie Dickens, a writer of Morning Chronicle, headquartered in Fleet Street. He acts as a journalist and parliamentary reporter, befriending with spikes on the desks and foggy London.

  • The only monsters in Fleet Street, he had been told, were the printing presses whose thumping made the pavement shake, and which demanded to be fed every day with a diet of politics, ‘orrible murders and death.
  • My answer to you would be that the truth is a fog, in which one man sees the heavenly host and the other one sees a flying elephant. (Dickens)
Angela_Georgina_Burdett-Coutts,_Baroness_Burdett-Coutts_from_NPG
Angela Burdett-Coutts

Alongside Dickens, there is the notable philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), whose roles on charitable acts of supporting Ragged Schools,  encourages Dodger to enroll in it, as well as being a courageous pillar to Dodger’s contrived plots against the enemies, plays an important part of the story. It is amusing that she proposes to Duke of Wellington, and later marries to a 29-year-old secretary, who is 38 years her junior. In her party organised by Lady Coutts, where Dodger and Solomon have the honour to be invited, it is star-studded with George Cayley (1773-1857), Charles Babbage (1791-1871) and Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) (daughter of Lord Byron), Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891) (whose keen interests lead him to a guided tour of the sewer world), and Sir Robert Peel with the peelers. I could not elaborate more on their distinctions and achievements, so more research need to be done.

Interestingly, a worthy mentioning of names pin-pricked in the story include Sweeney Todd (whose fate leads him to Bedlam Hospital), Mister Tenniel (1820-1914) (the illustrator), and Dick Turpin the highwayman (1705-1739). Places included Lavender Hill Cemetery and Cross Bones Graveyard, Southwark concerning Winchester Geese. Last but not least, with Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort.

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace
1024px-Cross_Bones_Graveyard-0052
A place I didn’t visit last time in London!

17998922All in all, entertaining as it might be, the most inspiring idea I get is the faith and belief you have in yourself. The Roman Goddess of Sewers, Cloacina, the Lady, is all that toshers worship in the underbelly of London, as opposed to the one on the upper world. However, it is not about that or what, it’s the reincarnation of the true self, and Dodger has found one. It is an impressive novel packed with blaggard and scallywag, waifs and strays, and many Victorian slang like copper, snakesman and flophouse. A perfect read for me in April. I hope to get my next one by Pratchett!

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Book Review 4)

“Many’s the poor devil whose life has been ruined because some women has, refused to marry him. Women have all the ‘power’ there, Dorothea. All the power of yea and nay.” – Michael O’Rourke (John Forster)

Crystal_Palace_-_Queen_Victoria_opens_the_Great_ExhibitionQuestioning women’s status is the part I favour the most. Some lines are strong and intentional, and it is interesting to note that even the invincible Queen Victoria would dovetail with the commoners to be the fair weaker sex, and being submissive and paying all due respects to her Prince Consort.

“But does it not strike you as unfair, ma’am, that a simple question of one’s sex should condemn one for ever to a particular sphere? Your Majesty, so active and busy. You do not have to be satisfied with domestic matters alone.”

  • “Oh, we would willingly cede all matters of state to be a simple housewife in a crofter’s cottage!”…”But women’s true nature is not suited to high office. We are too much at the mercy of our feelings. Men, we find, have more concentration and are better able to think without the constraints of emotion….whether she be Queen or commoner, is that of wife and mother.”
  • “The Prince Consort met with the very same when he proposed the Great Exhibition. But, like your husband, the Prince would not be dissuaded. He was determined. And what a success that proved to be!”….
  • “Such dear people from all over the Empire! So many of our loyal subjects bringing so many wonderful artifacts! And the Crystal Palace itself! Was there ever such a structure?” Her voice breaks. She has tears in her eyes, and I realise she does not want to hear Alfred anymore. She wants to talk about her own husband…I nod while she expounds on the Prince’s achievements, his patience under travail, his devotion to his family.

After the conversations and meeting with Queen Victoria, Sissy, and Miss Ricketts as well as reflecting their situations with hers, Dorothea reached the equanimity of her own – all surrounding her are caged with the expectations of inherent values and not being able to reach beyond their true self. There was an observation deluged with her mind. Was there anything she could do to purge these rooted ideas?

“One little moment of power, very early on when we hardly know how to exercise it. But once we are married…well, we can’t say yes or no then, can we?”

3916763

This novel, is one of the most interesting novels I have read. I have some disappointments in the rearranging and omitting of the factual information on Dickens’s life concerning his family and social circles in author’s reinterpretations: the encounter of Alfred and Miss Ricketts (Dickens and Nelly Ternan), the inaccuracies in marriage of Kitty (no mentioning of Charles Allston Collins and Edward Perugini, but being replaced with a fearful profligate spender), and the omission of Wilkie Collins.

On the other hand, the essence and emotion of each character is captured well and transmitted perfectly on the page, and all the reasons is made more ostentatious, implicit and succinct: the forever-preoccupation of Dickens’s mind, the lassitude and indisposition of Catherine Dickens in anticipation, abandonment, hostility and separation with her husband in undeserving treatment, the questioning of social status in women (of all classes), it seems as if all characters come to life, especially the protagonist, Catherine Dickens, in giving her a name of justification and speculative confession, sprinkling with the finale of reconciliation and connection back to her own true self.

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Book Review 3)

“Where another fellow would fall into a footbath of action or emotion, you fall into a mine. Where any other fellow would be a painted butterfly, you are a fiery dragon. Where another man would stake a sixpence, you stake your existence. If you were to go up in a balloon, you would make for Heaven; and if you were to dive into the depths of the earth, nothing short of the other place would content you.”- Wilkie Collins

article-0-09B1151C000005DC-645_468x609
Nelly Ternan

Miss Ricketts (Nelly Ternan) met Alfred Gibson (Charles Dickens) in 1857. The foundation of love had already shambled between Dorothea (Catherine) and Alfred during that time: incompatibilities in temperament, battalion of children being too overwhelmed to be looked after, and indisposition to be a domestic goodness, in Alfred’s opinion, to say the least.

Incongruous with the biographies which usually depict the first encounter between Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens through the playing of The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins on stage in Manchester, where there’s not much interaction on the characters they played; Miss Ricketts and Alfred met each other when performing Lord Royston. Miss Ricketts played Alma, and Alfred, in this case, was Lord Royston.

Lord Royston loves Alma more than life itself, but in a fit of madness he casts her aside. However, she remains faithful and true to him, and at the end they reunited. Even through he is dying – shot through the heart – he is able to take her in his arms and beg forgiveness.”…

“He took his cues so naturally – speaking so fast and with such passion…Then, at the very end, when he had to die in my arms, he held me with such desperate force and looked at me with such intensity that I could not remember a single line of my response. Tears poured from my eyes, while all the cast stood dumbly around…” (I suppose Lord Royston is actually Dombey and Son?)

Here, the author of this novel, Gaynor Arnold plays a clever trick. She re-creates a similar scene as The Frozen Deep; Alfred was still the one giving out interactions as in Dickens with the heroine; whereas that princess, who was supposed to be the younger sister of Nelly Ternan (Maria), was replaced by Miss Ricketts. Besides, Gaynor amends the death of Miss Ricketts’s father who kicked the bucket a year ago (Nelly Ternan’s one passed away while she was 9) – resorting their relationship more conceivable / excusable? Moreover, the story is designated to be told in the form of a meeting shared by Miss Ricketts and Dorothea, and Gaynor Arnold makes it nebulous whether their relationship was of a platonic love of not.

(Dickens’s letter to Miss Coutts praising the unexceptional skills of Maria Ternan) – “I never saw anything like the distress and agitation of her face…it had a natural emotion in it which was quite a study of expression…the tears streamed out of her eyes into his mouth, down his beard, all over his rags – down his arms as he held her by the hair… at the same time she sobbed as if she were breaking her heart, and was quite convulsed with grief.” 

Their romance kindled as exactly in the case of a paternal complex; and Miss Ricketts, in a meeting with Dorothea, stated the agitation in admiration of his talents as an actress, and entrapment of falling into Alfred’s passion and kindness in assisting her family financially. To my disappointment, not a single word of Staplehurst Rail Crash was exchanged.

Alfred confiding this secret of the affair and the status of his marriage to Michael O’Rourke (John Forster) – “He still maintained that I was in some ways the happier man because the ‘gilt of romance’ had never been rubber off my particular piece of gingerbread by the ‘slow attrition of dispute and disagreement.”

After the conversation, Dorothea tended to acquiesce the similarities of situation both she and Ricketts shared. There was restriction of freedom, the pretending  and stricken consolation to the anticipation of reunion with Alfred after long hours of solitude (no matter Dorothea’s case, abandonment or not); most importantly, in the protection of Alfred to be prevailed against a sullied state to the public, they were admittedly bullied in their circumstances.

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Book Review 2)

Catherine Dickens
Catherine Dickens

“Despise me by all means. But don’t envy me. To know his love and then lose it is a terrible thing: total darkness when one has been used to the brightest of light.”

“Lottie (Frances Dickens) a bright robin, Dorothea a gentle turtle-dove. The differences between them at first seemed immaterial, if not delightful; but later, when household chaos threatened to overwhelm us, I found myself wishing that the robin would deign to scuttle about and guide the turtle-dove a little in some active management of her duties…” – Alfred Gibson

IMG_20150324_013154-1
Tavistock House (1851-1860) (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)

Apart from the incompatibilities and different temperament which led to the downfall in the marriage of Alfred and Dorothea, and separation in 1858 (same year as The Great Stink – effluent discharged to The Thames making it reek in miasma), another grave matter, besides, was the powerlessness of women at the time. Here, as In Dorothea’s case, since the beginning of their marriage, it was her smattering of domestic management which embittered Alfred, whose opinion was that it was essential qualities while he busied in assiduous work and research and bemused the public. Later on, with agony of a house inundated with battalion of children conceived by Dorothea and the arrival of the younger sister Sissy’s (Georgia Hogarth) ministrations to the household, their relationship resulted in a breakdown and came to an irrevocably painstaking separation. Dorothea left Park House (Tavistock House) in 1860 and moved on living on her own, whilst the children were left in Alfred’s custody and Sissy’s care.

IMG_20150324_012827-1
Georgina Hogarth… “Well, he was embarrassed by you, Dodo. Good Heavens, we were all embarrassed by you……You behave like a madwoman, Dodo. Alfred was a Great Man. He needed a wife who could add honour to his name, who could understand his heart and mind.” (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)

Although this novel does not mention the set-up of partition wall ordered by Alfred (Dickens) to the servants, it is still exceedingly poignant in showing the indisposed Dorothea’s powerlessness to the situation and the deprivation of freedom, feelings, and control of her life, so was left in a claustrophobic environment on her own. The relationship and reunion with Sissy with her arrival at Park House with the expectations of rapprochement only aggravated in encroachment. The affection and happiness she longed for when marrying Alfred led to misery, incompatibility and dishonesty.

So ironic comparing with the lines back to the beginning of Dorothea’s first encounter with Alfred, when the description of herself was given in the first chapters, “I was a blue silk Rapunzel locked up in my Chiswick Tower.” And now it would be that “on an instant of bedding their brides had become transformed into veritable Bluebeard.”

“I lay there alone in the cold, waiting for him – for the sound of the door opening, the weight and warmth of him as he dipped in beside me. That night and every other, I waited for him. But he never slept with me again.”

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold (Book Review 1)

3916763Having read Affinity by Sarah Waters, which mainly depicts the social conditions of Millbank Prison as well as the physical incarceration of women in the nineteenth century, I come across with another Neo-Victorian novel named Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold and experience a poignant heroine rapt with mental afflictions and anguish in living with her husband who is surrounded by huge success, fame, and much-loved admiration from the public. His name is widely known as Alfred Gibson, or Charles Dickens, whom this novel is largely based on. The heroine, Dorothea Millar, while overcoming Alfred’s death and seeking re-connection and reconciliation with new life, she finds herself being indulged with reminiscences of their first romantic encounter to incompatibilities and an inevitable and notorious separation.

Catherine Dickens (The Invisible Woman)
Catherine Dickens (The Invisible Woman)
  • “The One and Only. Yours Truly. The Great Original.”

IMG_20150324_012605-1

The novel opens with the ending of Alfred’s life in 1870. Great details of the procession and mourning of the public during the funeral were recalled by their eldest daughter, Kitty. “There were shuffling, sighing, and doffing of hats. In Piccadilly, they actually pelted the carriages with flowers, at the corners of Pall-Mall they chanted his name and pressed his books to their hearts as if they were holy icons.” No means were to placate the public on this day, he had breathed and thrived with the Law and Life of England. He was the veritable man, being omnipresent in every spectrum around the Country, receiving unsullied and impeccable accreditation constructed by himself to the public.

  • “You would quench my light. You would silence my voice. You would claw me down to the commonplace.” – Alfred Gibson
The much beloved sister Mary Hogarth, The funeral and epitaph in Kensal Green was arranged and composed by Dickens. (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)
The much beloved sister Mary Hogarth (1820-1837). The funeral and epitaph in Kensal Green was arranged and composed by Dickens. (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)

Nevertheless, concerning his private life and home truths, it could be in no way unsullied. It was gravely experienced by his wife Dorothea, in this case their marriage which was once a primrose path ended in ruined roads of perdition. There were much to be pondered upon and contributed to the separation and hostility. First of all, it could be a matter of the incompatibility of the temperament between Alfred and Dorothea as they both admitted and stated publicly and personally. “Up until then I’d believed my Mama when she said that a sensible disposition was worth its weight in gold, but now I wished I were possessed of more fascinating arts.” In fact it could be crucial matters, as the difference in character and disposition would lead to jealousy and suspicion of feeling neglected, as a result, it was engraved in Dorothea’s mind while her husband was gregarious and belated with enjoyment of the world, the work and company of society, humankind and arts.

For instance, for the love of humankind and purity of the other sex, Alfred developed an emotion of fondness of Alice, the younger sister of Dorothea, once she moved to Channon Street (Doughty Street) when he and Dorothea were still newlyweds. After her unexpected death of fever, he preserved her lock of hair, a ring, and some manuscripts and novels written by himself with pinpricks of notes jotted down by Alice all in a treasure box. Dorothea’s jealousy was aroused but appeased with Alfred’s explanation.

10516850_10152867333904470_3806746961459008897_n
Dickens’s Museum in Doughty Street

In another case when Alfred grew fascinations with the practice of hypnotism, Dorothea was insinuated of the hours he spent with his ‘patient” Madame Bradt.

“It only took you minutes to cure my headache. Why were you so long with her?”

“Because, my dear wife, her symptoms are more complicated. Her pain is not a simple defects of the nerves. It stems from a kind of hysteria deep within.”

…”You are jealous – and jealousy and mistrust go together. It is mean-spirited. I am disappointed in you.”

(Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)
Angela Burdett-Coutts (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)

Regarding his widely known philanthropy and charity work, Dorothea had another opinion of his diligent devotion to Utopia House (Urania Cottage) which he worked abreast with Amelia Brougham (Angela Burdett-Coutts).

“It was one thing to campaign for women of a certain sort to be brought from their ways, but I did not see why Alfred had to be involved in such detail with their daily lives…He’d come home and stand by the fender and poke the fire, and tell me how he’d encountered some new young inmate called Sal or Annie, as beautiful as though the very Sun of Heaven shone from her eyes.”

Although defeated by the statement and defence of the accusation from Alfred, Dorothea always was not wholly cpnvinced with the explanations at an afterthought, “His vision of the world was so powerful that it occluded any commonplace realities.” (Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion by Peter Ackroyd) It was never known whether Alfred, to her, was implacable or innocuous as in what he had said or done.

Urania Cottage (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)
Urania Cottage (Photos from Dickens: Public Life & Private Passions by Peter Ackroyd)

Affinity by Sarah Waters

affinity-bookFantastic novel! It is my first try on Sarah Water’s works, I wouldn’t want to share the feelings at first as it is just fantastical; but then after my thinking and rumination of the novel being done a week later, I decide to write some words about it (though not comparably descriptive and beautiful as Affinity), and I recommend this novel strongly.

1874. London. Margaret Prior, determines to shake off her agony of her father’s death which happens two years earlier as well as her unpleasant memory of the suicidal attempt, she embarks on the journey of being a Lady Visitor at Millbank prison. Not only she is to be held responsible, in the eyes of matrons, to educate the female prisoners and restore them in moral rights, but also as desperate remedies, “to look on women more wretched than her, in the hope that it will make her well again”. However there is no turning back as she slowly be of acquaintance and confidence of Selina Dawes, the spirit-medium, who is to be held in the cell for two awful long years…

To me, it may not be a good idea to make a comparison with Sarah Waters and other authors that I admire all through my reading experience, but it has got all good elements of a typical Victorian sensation novel (like the ones of Wilkie Collins’s, but in a different technique; this one does not make your head come clear until you have reached the end, so excuse me, I have much more pleasure from reading WC’s!) : (1) a poignancy touch of fatality and sympathy of the poor and the condemned who live in hostility and harsh conditions, provided with the rich details and research by Sarah Waters (great knowledge of history regarding Millbank prison); (2) psychological and physical incarceration of women in 19th century (which is a good decision to set the novel with homoerotic affections; for me it underlines this issue perfectly); (3) scientific doubt (results from Darwinism and industrial revolution) vs. restrained superstitions; and (4) the clever plays on puns which are also the messages and themes of the novel.

It is a very imaginative but convincing story that hooks you on and keeps you staying up in bed all night in finding out what would possibly happen next. You will find the novel a bit depressing with the atmosphere of the octagon-shaped prison; it is nonetheless thought-provoking along the read. To be said it all, It drags you in a “drugged and dreamy sense of self-loss” (from The Happy Reader)! If you feel happy to analyse the novel, get yourself a copy, it’s well worth it!

For the next read, I might get myself to read some psychological thrillers. It seems to be the genre I’m interested in at the moment!