Thursday, September 2, 2010

Velda Johnston: A Presence in an Empty Room

I'll begin with this novel since I just read it. Velda Johnston authored over a dozen Gothic novels before her death in 1997, but I had not read any of them that I recall until I read this one published in 1982. I plan to read more of her novels now.

The main character, Susan Hapgood, has lived with her father for many years. His illness is the major focus of her sheltered life. At 23, after his death, she meets Martin Summerslee in a bookstore. They move back to the ancestral home in Maine, and strange things occur regarding his first wife who died in a plane crash.

Overall, I recommend this book. I will rate each book this way with blurbs alongside each mark:

Plot: 3/5 [The plot moves quickly enough, but there was one section where a minor character talked for six or more pages that was a bit strange.]

Characterization: 3/5 [The characters were drawn a bit thinly. I got a good sense of Susan and of Martin, but Martin was too good to be true. It was almost annoying. The first wife was well drawn as was her friend, Migs.]

Atmosphere/Spooky points: 4/5 [This novel has a real plot twist that I did not see coming. That alone gives me cause to rank it fairly high. The supernatural comes into play, and it is quite spooky/threatening throughout a portion of the novel. The ancestral home setting as well as a spooky old church and pagan rituals add to these elements.]

Literary or not: 3.5/5 [This novel is surprisingly smart. References are made to various academic works that Susan and her father collected and read as well as theories stemming from said works. The hero of the novel is a writer/researcher. This element of depth/smartness always appeals to me.]

Rating: 3+ stars

**I do recommend this one. The plot twist and some unusual elements of the supernatural were enough for me to enjoy this novel.


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