Servants

( 5 )

Overview

For young Mark, the world has turned as bleak and gray as the Brighton winter. Separated from his real father and home in London, he's come to live with his mother and her new husband in an old house near the sea. He spends his days alone, trying to master the skateboard, while other boys his age are in school. He hates the unwanted stepfather who barged into Mark's life to rob him of joy. Worst of all, his once-vibrant mother has grown listless and weary, no longer interested ...

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The Servants

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Overview

For young Mark, the world has turned as bleak and gray as the Brighton winter. Separated from his real father and home in London, he's come to live with his mother and her new husband in an old house near the sea. He spends his days alone, trying to master the skateboard, while other boys his age are in school. He hates the unwanted stepfather who barged into Mark's life to rob him of joy. Worst of all, his once-vibrant mother has grown listless and weary, no longer interested in anything beyond her sitting room.

But on a damp and chilly evening, an accident carries Mark into the basement flat of the old woman who lives at the bottom of his stepfather's house. She offers tea, cakes, and sympathy . . . and the key to a secret, bygone world. Mark becomes caught up in the frenetic bustle of the human machinery that once ran a home, and drawn ever deeper into a lost realm of spirits and memory. Here below the suffocating truths, beneath the pain and unhappiness, he finds an escape, and quite possibly a way to change everything.

A richly evocative, poignantly beautiful modern-day ghost story, The Servants marks the triumphant return of Michael Marshall Smith—the first novel in a decade from the multiple award-winning author of Spares.

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Editorial Reviews

Santa Fe New Mexican
“A hefty lot for any author to manage, but Smith does it both subtly and charmingly.”
Santa Fe New Mexican on THE SERVANTS
“A hefty lot for any author to manage, but Smith does it both subtly and charmingly.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061494161
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/9/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 439,539
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2008

    Subtle, poetic tale of a boy's change in perspective

    When Mark's family moves from London to Brighton, his former familiar life vanishes. His stepfather David vacillates between irritating and ignoring him. His mother seems so caught up with her new husband, that she no longer participates in the kinds of special family moments he shared. Mark spends most of his time alone until he meets an elderly woman living in a self-contained basement apartment. She has lived there many years. She too seems almost invisible, until she meets Mark. Mark goes to see her more and more, exploring beyond the doorway into the servant's quarters once inhabited a couple of centuries ago. Now cobwebs, disuse, and decay have overtaken the past. Mark notices that time seems to almost stand still when he visits the servant's quarters alone and then something changes, something unworldly allows him to see life as he never could before.// From the first paragraphs of the prologue of THE SERVANTS, Michael Marshall Smith gives readers an eerie yet moving portrait of the old woman living in the apartment. Old, so old that her body seems to meld with the location, she could be a somewhat senile old woman or perhaps her body has been transformed into another material. From the first description, Michael Marshall Smith creates a connection between the young and the old as only the young and old value rhythm and ritual, knowing how to escape the here and now. As the novel progresses, Mark's connection to this woman, to the past, transforms his reality, allowing him deeper insights into his new family. As Mark comes to understand his place within the world, his family itself experiences a change, a change both sad and uplifting but one that moves the heart.// Told through the viewpoint of an eleven year old boy, Michael Marshall Smith creates an alliance between the boy and the reader. The reader's understanding of the family changes alongside Mark's. An eerie supernatural environment keeps the reader slightly on edge, not knowing what to expect until the final dramatic moments. Michael Marshall Smith's THE SERVANTS is a heart-warming tale of a boy's maturation with a slight supernatural twist. The beauty of this book originates from the poetic use of prose and the subtle transformation in emotion and perspective. If you come to this book expecting a flashy, dramatic science fiction tale, this might not be the best reading choice. If, however, you crave something more subtle, THE SERVANTS is an emotionally satisfying tale of a young man who looks at the world beyond the surface, seeing connections where he once saw none. Likewise, THE SERVANTS is a book that will appeal to readers like Mark, readers willing to open their perspective. THE SERVANTS is a short book in pages, but one that expands inwardly with poetic resonances interwoven within the narrative structure itself, and outwardly with insights that transcend beyond time and age. THE SERVANTS is a story that only gains a finer richness through rereading.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2012

    Excellent book that takes unexpected turns. It will make you th

    Excellent book that takes unexpected turns. It will make you think and reflect on past decisions you've made. An interesting and new way of using ghosts in a story to connect to real life circumstances.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2008

    A reviewer

    Eleven year old Mark hates moving from London to Brighton with his ailing mother and new stepfather David. Mark blames David for the fact that his divorced parents will never reconcile and his biological dad will probably never come to take him to the Chinese restaurant like they used when they came to Brighton as a family visiting the resort. He also loathes Brighton where unlike London, which stretches on forever he can see where this new city ends at the shore. Lonely, Mark¿s only companion is a skateboard, but he makes no friends as the older kids ridicule his efforts on their ramps.------------ The elderly woman who lives in the apartment below that of Mark¿s shows the lad the once occupied servants' quarters. Fascinated by what he has seen, Mark sneaks in by himself to explore further. However, Mark is stunned when he begins to see the servants working and becomes frightened as he knows there are no servants living or working in the house. Mark realizes he is seeing their ghosts. He begins to connect the increasing chaos below to his mom¿s illness now if he can find a way to help these ghosts with their issues, he might save his mom who seems to be slowly fading away.---------------- Although there is a paranormal Twilight Zone feel to the story line, Mark as an angry, despondent preadolescent who does not understand what happened in the last year to his perfect life makes the tale. He comes across as an authentic troubled youth even when he enters the eerie surreal realm of THE SERVANTS, which in turn Mark brings with him a sense of ¿reality¿ to these ghosts going about their jobs as if time stood still waiting for his presence. The secondary characters including his stepfather, his mom, his memory of his father, the elderly neighbor and the apparitions enhance a strong haunted house thriller reader will wonder if the lonely depressed child went over the edge in his search for normalcy as he remembers it.---------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted June 29, 2010

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    Posted February 15, 2011

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    Posted November 24, 2010

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    Posted March 19, 2011

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