|A wonderful Gothic novel|
I have just finished reading Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey. I couldn't put it down. Set in the Victorian era this stand alone novel is the story of sixteen year old Violet Willoughby, the daughter of a fraudulent medium. What intrigued me most about this book is the fact that the author is fearless in tackling the topic of a toxic parent. Indeed Mrs Willoughby is a fine example of a Narcissistic Mother; resentful, controlling, manipulative and self-absorbed. She frequently tries to put Violet on a guilt trip with her 'after all I've done for you!' speeches and she is not above using emotional blackmail to get her own way.
Violet is forced to assist her mother, who is basically a con woman, in elaborately staged seances. I was very interested to read about some of the 'tricks of the trade' that fake mediums would use to support their claims of otherworldly activity and communing with spirits. It is quite shocking that anyone could profiteer from grief and bereavement, but in the Victorian age mediums were all the rage and there was money to be made. Violet and her mother live a life of luxury and faced with the prospect of destitution, the seances are their only means of income. Due to the nature of her mother's 'gift' Violet doesn't believe in ghosts, so when she comes face to face with the ghost of a drowned girl she tries to ignore it. But the ghost won't go away and Violet suspects that she was murdered. As more ghosts turn up, she is forced to accept her gift as real while trying to keep it secret from her mother who would surely view Violet as a cash cow if she knew of Violet's new ability. As Violet tries to track down the killer and lay the girl's ghost to rest, she puts herself in very grave danger, asking too many questions and raising suspicions.
This novel is so many things; it is a Victorian coming of age story, a thriller, a paranormal romance and a murder mystery all rolled into one. It has all the key notes of a traditional Gothic novel; a dead girl, a beautiful country house, secrets and deceptions, strange weather patterns at play, supernatural events etc. It reminded me a little of Jane Eyre in that respect. There are some beautiful descriptive passages of the library and boudoir suite of Rosefield House which I loved reading. All in all Haunting Violet is a fun take on the classic Victorian ghost story. Definitely worth a read. I'll be looking for more novels by this author next time I visit the book shop.