Sunday, September 26, 2010
There is a ghostly lover there in the image with the swooning woman.
I'm going off the beaten path to review this gem of a Gothic Ghost Story/Gothic Romance novel. I stumbled upon this in the paperback section of the library last fall, and I was not disappointed. Published in 1984, this novel is an example of a modern work in the genre done well.
When Suzanna Blackwell's mother dies, she goes to be with her father, a ranking Naval officer, for his retirement ceremony on Mare Island. She begins to be haunted by a spirit soon after in her father's house-- a spirit who was obviously a soldier in life and had some connection with her mother. Some interesting things occur between her and the spirit, but real life is still going on.
Suzanna meets Michael, a photographer/reporter and ex-Vietnam vet with some major war trauma. Together, they must solve the mystery of the ghost who haunts Suzanna before they are both destroyed.
Characterization: 5/5 [The characters are real, and they have real problems. I pictured Ralph Fiennes (when younger) as Michael since he does tortured soul well and Suzanna portrayed by a young Grace Kelly. Suzanna's father and other characters were well drawn as was the ghost; I imagined her father as Charlton Heston.]
Plot: 5/5 [This novel is suspenseful and gripping; I propelled through it quickly. Setlowe's history as a Naval officer (not to mention a reporter) and his insights about that life and life aboard ships is what makes this novel so real and engrossing. He also shows sympathy for veterans and all points of view on the military; I found that to be refreshing.]
Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [There are so many-- ghostly sex, ghosts in photographs, mysterious deaths, haunted ships, spooky owls and so much more. The ships truly act as characters in this novel, and Setlowe manages to weave past and present together seamlessly. I remember becoming interested in haunted Naval ships, and we even took a tour of a ship a a few months ago. I was and still am fascinated by ghost stories associated with ships.]
Literary elements: 4/5 [This one is pure entertainment with a good bit of history and other things thrown in.]
Romance? Yes, and it is messy and complicated-- much like romance can be in real life.
Rating: 4+ stars ****+
** This one is not to be missed. It might be a good Halloween read pick if you are into Naval history or old decommissioned ships, especially. I didn't think I was into either, and I loved this novel.
Haunting of Suzanna Blackwell