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The story itself is narrated, not by Maltravers, but by his sister Sophia, in a letter to his son. Overall I thought John Meade Falkner did a really good job both in choosing Sophia as the narrator and fleshing out her character believably (even though I did have to wonder how she knew so many details about what went on in her brother's life when he was away from home). We need her to be the narrator because Maltravers becomes increasingly unsympathetic as the book goes on, and the story she tells is a thinly veiled metaphor about how she lost her brother to addiction. That's why I don't think of this as a "ghost story"--the ghost in question really has only a minimal amount to do with the central narrative. When Maltravers moves to Italy, the book takes on an unexpectedly Gothic flavor, with abandoned castles, skeletons, and murders mysterious.
I was actually thinking The Lost Stradivarius was pretty good until the final chapter, which is an addendum by Mr. Gaskell, the "very intimate" university friend of Maltravers. There was some ethnocentrism, and paranoia about the undue influence of pagan (read: classical, read: homosexual) Italian culture on Our Susceptible Young People earlier in the book; but in Gaskell's note it was so over-the-top that I was literally LOLing. Falkner also added a bunch of extraneous plot elements in the final chapter, I have no idea why. Am I supposed to care about the ghost's murder and missing pages from his diary? BECAUSE I DON'T.
Still, even though I found the last chapter ridiculous and annoying, it's very zeitgeist-y in that it reflects the Symbolists' concern with art and beauty and overindulgence. I just wish it had been more subtle and not so much with the xenophobia.
The Lost Stradivarius is an interesting mixture of ghost story, Symbolist writing, and Gothic novel, and for the most part it works. I think it would be a great read around Halloween or for the RIP Challenge.
Posted March 16, 2013
Posted July 20, 2011
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