Ghostwalk

Ghostwalk

by Rebecca Stott

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

In 2002, a Cambridge historian is found dead, floating down the river Cam, a glass prism in her hand, after researching a book about a series of suspicious circumstances surrounding Newton's appointment as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1667. That year, two Fellows died by falling down staircases, apparently drunk; another died in a field, apparently drunk; and a fourth was expelled, having gone mad–leaving vacancies for new appointments and paving the way for Newton’s extraordinary scientific discoveries. When Lydia Brooke, at the request of her ex-lover, the historian’s son, steps in to finish the book, strange shows of light begin to play on the walls, and papers disappear only to reappear elsewhere. And when events escalate to murder, and Lydia’s rekindled romance appears increasingly implicated in the danger, the present becomes entangled with the seventeenth century, with Isaac Newton at the center of the mystery.

Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, of seventeenth-century glassmaking, alchemy, the Great Plague, and Newton’s scientific innovations, Ghostwalk centers on a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered, involving Newton’s alchemy. A riveting literary thriller, Ghostwalk is a rare debut that will change the way most of us think about scientific innovation, our perception of time, and the force of history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385521079
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/03/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 7.92(w) x 5.08(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

REBECCA STOTT is professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She is the author of a biography Darwin and the Barnacle and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. She lives in Cambridge, England. This is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

One


Over the last two years, as I have tried to tease out the truths from the untruths in that series of events that seeped out through Elizabeth's death, like lava moving upwards and outwards through salt water from a tear in the seabed, I have had to be you several times, Cameron Brown, in order to claw myself towards some kind of coherence. Sometimes it was—is—easy to imagine the world through your eyes, terribly possible to imagine walking through the garden that afternoon in those moments before you found your mother's body in the river. After all, for a long time, all that time we were lovers, it was difficult to tell where your skin ended and mine began. That was part of the trouble for Lydia Brooke and Cameron Brown. Lack of distance became—imperceptibly—a violent entanglement.

So this is for you, Cameron, and yes, it is also for me, Lydia Brooke, because perhaps, in putting all these pieces together properly, I will be able to step out from your skin and back into mine.


Alongside Elizabeth’s body floating in red in the river, there are other places where this story needs to start, places I can see now but wouldn't have seen then, other beginnings which were all connected. Another death, one that took place around midnight on the 5th of January, 1665. That night, Richard Greswold, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, had opened a door onto a dark, unlit landing above a staircase in Trinity. A draught caught the flame from the lamp in his hand, twisting and elongating the shadows around him. As a thin stream of blood began to trickle from one, then both of his nostrils, he raised the back of his hand and wiped it across his cheek, smearing the blood into streaks, and fell forward, very slowly, into air, through the palest of moon shadows cast through casement windows. He fell heavily, his body twisting and beating against the steps and walls. The lamp fell too and bounced, making a metallic counterpoint to the thuds of flesh on wood. By morning the blood from the wound on Richard Greswold’s head had run through and across the uneven cracks of the stone flagging on which he died, making a brown map like the waterways across the Fens to the north, the college porter said, prying a key—the key to the garden—from the dead man’s clenched fist. Encrusted blood, as thick as fen mud.

Greswold’s death was bound up with Elizabeth’s. She came to know that before she died, but we didn’t. Two Cambridge deaths, separated by three centuries, but inseparable, shadowing each other. Richard Greswold. Elizabeth Vogelsang.


Elizabeth Vogelsang drowned in September, 2002, the first of three deaths that would become the subject of a police investigation four months later. The police took a ragged testimony from me, which I gave in answer to the questions they asked and which were recorded on tape in a windowless room in the basement of the Parkside Police Station by a Detective Sergeant Cuff on the 16th of January, 2003.

“All the interview rooms are occupied this morning, Dr. Brooke,” he said, struggling to find the right key as I followed him down grey corridors. “So we’ll have to use the central investigation room. I’m afraid it’s not ideal, but it is at least empty this morning. There’s a staff training morning—health and safety. We have about an hour. This is not a formal interview, you understand. We’ll do that later. Just a chat.”

“I don’t know whether what I have to tell you will take an hour,” I said. My nerves were jangled. I wasn’t sleeping. I was still waking in the middle of the night angry with you, and with me, but I had enough self–possession to know that I would have to be careful and alert here at the Parkside Police Station. Very alert. They had arrested Lily Ridler.

“We will have to see you again, Dr. Brooke, without doubt. You will be central to our enquiries.”


That’s how I came to see another version, their version. Well, not quite see, but glimpse. The central investigation room at the Parkside Police Station was filled with filing cabinets and four desks with exaggerated curves sweeping in different directions; over to the right, a magnetic whiteboard ran the length of one entire windowless wall. Cuff pulled up a swivel chair for me on the other side of his desk, carefully clearing away papers and notes into a drawer and locking it. A collection of objects and photographs had been attached to the whiteboard with magnets. Curled around those objects were a series of questions, names, lists, and arrows in coloured marker pens in different hands. I couldn’t see very much from where I was sitting, so when Cuff went to retrieve a file from another room, I slipped the digital camera out of my briefcase and photographed it. A risky act driven by nothing but a terrible, bereaved curiosity.

A white magnetic board written on in different hands in different colours and a series of photographs—three dead bodies, one woman drowned in a red coat, two men with their faces slashed, a wall of graffiti, several photographs of mutilated cats and horses, the house at Landing Lane, a photograph of Lily Ridler next to some other people I didn't recognise—animal activists, I assume—and a photograph of a pile of shredded paper. When I call up the photo on my laptop and increase the resolution I can pick out details. If you go close enough you can just see that the blue pen lists two of the murder scenes: Staircase E of Trinity College and St. Edward’s Passage. And if you go very close, right up into the right–hand corner—it took me a while to spot this—there’s a photograph of me next to a photograph of Sarah. It was the photograph of me that you carried in your mobile phone, filed away carefully, so that no one would find it. The one you took on Holkham Beach. They must have gone through all the files in your mobile to find that. Underneath someone had written my name. Lydia Brooke.

Yes, that whiteboard was the sketchy beginning of the police version of what came to be known as the Cambridge murders. Murders that would be discussed in Parliament and produced as evidence to support proposed draconian measures in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, and which were finally instrumental in changing British law. Yes, we were making legal history but, of course, we didn't know that then.

That first conversation did take the best part of an hour because Cuff had so many questions about my relationship with you, what I had been doing in Elizabeth’s house, how I had come to know the family, when I had last seen you, what we had talked about, what you had been wearing, and the context for that message I left on your phone. Cuff, who affected a relaxed nonchalance composed, I guessed, to make me drop my guard, summarised my answers and wrote them all out on lined police paper before reading them back to me in a continuous story, which he had somehow made from my fragmented answers. I signed it as a “true account.”

A few months later I tried to put together a more coherent description for the lawyer representing Lily Ridler in the court case. She asked me to write down everything I remembered that might have been relevant to the case, from Elizabeth’s funeral to the days of the trial. I had no ambivalence then about its truth or about its beginning and ending. That came later. I typed it out in Kit’s study looking down over the summer garden, two hours a day, until it seemed about right. Although it read sequentially, I didn’t write it sequentially. Memory doesn’t work like that. I kept remembering things as I wrote, things I had thought until then were inconsequential, which might have been “relevant,” so I went back and tucked them into the story—little details, thoughts, surmisings, speculations.

I’ve always wondered how the two stories—the ragged one I put together in answer to Cuff’s questions and the one I wrote in Kit’s study for Patricia Dibb—ended up being so different. It wasn’t as if I falsified anything. For the police my story was only part of a much bigger narrative, made up of perhaps twenty witness accounts, so the prosecution knitted together all those reports and circumstantial evidence in chronological order, and bit by bit against and between them, my story got pulled in several directions. When set together with all those others, my story took on a different shape, and it was the composite version, filtered, dragged, and kneaded, that the jury agreed to. It was pretty damning once they'd finished with it, damning enough to convict Lily Ridler of murder and send her to prison for the rest of her life. A tight story, she said to me the last time I saw her. Impenetrable now. A closed case.

The story kept on changing. When the court issued a press statement and the newspapers distilled it back down to the size they wanted, with all the appropriately dramatic, suspenseful moments, it fitted neatly into columns of small type. One journalist even made a time line of events in which the two murders were simply a notch in the straight passing of time through Lily’s life, like a single–track train with stations that began with her birth and ended with her arrest. She was charged with three murders and sixteen acts of unlawful animal killing and mutilation, but because they couldn’t pin Elizabeth’s death on her, she was convicted of only two murders. Once they’d added those killings to the time line and filled in the details about her grandfather and her parents, Lily Ridler had become a psychopath, a monster. Now, nearly two years later, Lily is dead.

So if we thought it was finished, we know it isn’t now. The ghosts have not been laid to rest after all, you see, not yours and not hers. If they were to question me again I think I would have to say that I see it differently now—the connections, I mean. Time does that. There were missing parts then, a historical dimension that no one asked any questions about and which, then, I could only half see.

What was missing? The seventeenth century. But how do you say that to a policeman who has just switched on his tape recorder to record the words “Parkside Police Station, 16 January, 2003, interview with Dr. Lydia Brooke”? How do you say, “There’s a missing witness account and a missing suspect…Sergeant Cuff, the seventeenth century is missing. And you need to talk to a man called Mr. F.”

How do you tell him that you think there’s a link between a female scholar found drowned in a river in Cambridge and a man who fell down a staircase nearby three hundred years earlier? Not a simple causal relationship but something as delicate as a web, one of those fine white skeins you see around the tips of grass stems in the spring when the dew is heavy.

A crow has just flown off my study roof, launched itself into the air to my left down over the garden, just as the right–hand corner of my map of Cambridge has curled itself noisily away from the wall. The syncopated sounds of the scurrying of crow’s feet on roof tiles and the curling of old paper is enough to make one think that there might be something else in the room beside me as I write. Which of you restless people is it? What do you want with my story?

No. If Elizabeth were here she would say that history is less like a skein of silk and more like a palimpsest—time layered upon time so that one buried layer leaks into the one above. Or like a stain in an old stone wall that seeps through the plaster.

What would Cuff have said or done if I had told him that he needed to know about the man who fell down the stairs of Trinity College on the 5th of January 1665, the fall that stained the floor, the stain that leaked through Elizabeth’s life and Lily’s, that held us all together, in thrall? Cuff would not have known the significance of the date—1665—or at least I don’t think he would have done. Perhaps 1666 would have rung some bells: the year the Great Plague abated in England and the Fire of London ravaged the capital in its wake. He might have remembered that from his secondary school history classes.

If I had told Cuff about Greswold and about Isaac Newton’s complicated friendship with a Mr. F., he wouldn't have written any of it down. He wouldn’t have considered it relevant. A man falling through air and shadows in Trinity College, 1665. A secret friendship between two young men, forged in alchemical and mathematical calculations. How could that have any bearing on a series of murders in Cambridge that took place in 2002 and 2003? If I had suggested that, Cuff would have raised one of his thick black eyebrows and his pen would have paused in midair. Elizabeth Vogelsang would have understood. Cuff wouldn’t.

Lily went to prison because the seventeenth century was missing from her court records, from her story. Her time line needed to be longer, much longer, and there were many sidelines and tracks, twistings and turnings and yes, it was a labyrinth, a skein of silk that began to weave itself in 1665, 339 years ago.

I’ve been thinking about labyrinths this summer. Ariadne giving Theseus the thread so that he could find his way back out of the labyrinth, away from the black void of the flesh–eating Minotaur. Unravellings have to start somewhere. Now that I see, for the first time, how connected everything is, I know that the threads between Isaac Newton and us were all attached, like the ground elder under Kit’s soil.

That summer in which I wrote my story and yours for Patricia Dibb, Kit and I declared war on the ground elder that had taken over her flower beds at Sturton Street. As we began to dig, we could see how each of those separate plants, uncurling above ground, was joined to a great network of root systems underground. There was no point in digging up part of it; you had to pull up the whole thing, and if you didn't, it would start reaching out again in the wet darkness of the soil, another green leaf curling up a week or so later. Grace, Kit’s elderly neighbour, leaning over the chicken wire fence, uttered her warnings about the impossibility of ever killing it off. She had spent fifty years trying, she said. Break those roots just once, she said, and the wound on the root will make scores of new shoots.

Reading Group Guide

A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand. The book she was writing about Isaac Newton’s involvement with alchemy—the culmination of her lifelong obsession with the seventeenth century—remains unfinished. When her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book, Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house—a studio in an orchard where the light moves restlessly across the walls. Soon Lydia discovers that the shadow of violence that has fallen across present-day Cambridge, which escalates to a series of murders, may have its origins in the troubling evidence that Elizabeth’s research has unearthed. As Lydia becomes ensnared in a dangerous conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the past, the seventeenth century slowly seeps into the twenty-first, with the city of Cambridge the bridge between them.

Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, of seventeenth-century glassmaking, alchemy, the Great Plague, and Newton’s scientific innovations, Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered involving Newton’s alchemy. In it, time and relationships are entangled—the present with the seventeenth century, and figures from the past with the love-torn twenty-first century woman who is trying to discover their secrets. A stunningly original display of scholarship and imagination, and a gripping story of desire and obsession, Ghostwalk is a rare debut that will change the way most of us think about scientific innovation, the force ofhistory, and time itself.

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Ghostwalk 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I guess I may be different from the other reviewers on my take of the book. While I thought it was well written, to me it was just all about this woman's obsession with a married man and her affair with him. I was hoping for a good ghost story involving Newton with some science and history mixed in, but it just keep going over and over this woman's fixation with this man - how dull. To me there was very little science, some history, and only a smidge of a ghost story. If I wanted to read something about an affair and how it affects a woman's life, I would pick up a Daniel Steele book or something - which I won't. Great idea for a book just this one fell well short.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A spate of killings terrorize Cambridge, and an extremist animal rights group is blamed. However, one woman who seeks the truth has fallen so deeply into this mystery that she can predict, to the day, when each murder will take place and the circumstances in which the victim will be found. Writer Lydia Brooke returns to Cambridge to attend the funeral of her dear friend and mentor, Elizabeth Vogelsangs. While there, she is asked by Elizabeth¿s son to complete what would have been Elizabeth¿s crowning achievement: an in-depth portrait of Isaac Newton the Alchemist. Although reluctant, Lydia agrees and becomes involved in a murder mystery that has spanned over three hundred years. Can Lydia solve the mystery before someone she truly cares about is killed, or will she realize that these events must take place and there is nothing she can do to stop them? Ghostwalk is a ghost story without the cheap thrills, with an intriguing plot that steadily builds pace throughout the story and characters who are interesting and equipped with enough human frailties that the reader can empathize with them. As stated previously, this book lacks the cheap thrills or dramatic scares that usually riddle this genre (it will not keep you up at night listening to every creak wondering if it is the ghost of Isaac Newton out to get ya.) Instead, it is a very subtle book ¿ there is no haunted mansion residing on a cliff¿s edge and no obvious or visible monsters, but surely subtlety is something which should be commended in this genre. I recommend Ghostwalk to anyone who enjoys good literary fiction with a touch of history thrown in. I do not recommend it to anyone who likes a nice, neat ending with all their questions answered. This novel will leave you wondering about the final outcome, and everyone¿s interpretation of the story will be different.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We listened to the audiobook version on a long trip, made short by the suspense, and yes, science. Even now, 72 hours after the the conclusion, I am still caught in the light of the studio, waiting for Cameron's footstep on the garden path. I cannot wait for Dr. Stott's next novel to appear.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a huge fan of historical fiction, I couldn't put this book down. It was beautifully written and compelling all throughout.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book extremely difficult to put down. The characterization was vivid and the story riveting. Every time I thought I had the story figured out, I turned a page and discovered I was wrong. This is well worth the read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was hoping for a ghost story with a steady but entrancing chill. Instead, this book circles around Isaac Newton, his scientific studies, and the company he kept. I kept waiting for the story to grab me, to thrill and impress me, but it was like hearing the story from a friend who'd heard it from their friend: there was just too much distance from the narrator to get fully involved.
AnaLeigh63 More than 1 year ago
Spooky. Interesting characters. Rich setting.
Branwyn27 More than 1 year ago
This novel sounded intriguing, especially with the description of Issac Newton's mysterious life. The book started off interesting, with the plot moving quickly in spite of the lovely, detailed descriptions of the lake house, but after the first few chapters, I lost interest. Although there was plenty of intrigue, there was little action to go along with it. I also thought it was interesting that Cameron, the murdered writer's son and Lydia had such an entangled past, but once the author detailed their past relationship, there were hardly any further interactions, at least not any significant moments. I found the relationship with the afterlife and ghosts very vague, and once Lydia tried to contact someone to assist her who was experienced in the occult or spiritualism, the older lady whom she consulted was not very likable. To sum it up, the book seemed to be torn between character-driven plot and scholarly repetitions. Perhaps if the author had relied more on other characters, like Cameron, the story would have progressed better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the writing style and thought the plot was original...I felt the parts dealing with Elizabeth's writing on Newton was way too tedious to read - I just thought those parts didn't need to be that involved and the plot could have been developed more. As far as Lydia and Cameron....I felt like giving them both a good smack - they were way too full of themselves and pretty shallow people that quite frankly, were pretty selfish individuals. Stotts writing style saved the novel....but the "spirit world" was just too much and too far fetched for me.
silk_gray More than 1 year ago
By godness, it is a slow read. I am on page 160 and still waiting for something to happen.... despite the plot itself seems to be very unique and intriguing. I will update the review when (if?) I finish it. If you are looking for a good historical thriller or fiction, Rosetti Letter or Brotheren/Crusede/The Fall of the Templars are much faster and better reads. So I'm back. I finished it but am sorry to say that the best part of the book was its cover; the rest did not measure up to it. The topic was original and seemingly very intriguing. While Ms. Stott beautifully presented the physical surroundings of the story (particulary that of the light), the worst flow of the book was the character development, both of those from the past and the present. I hardly cared for the love affair of the protagonist and it was unfortunate that it had to play out as the background (or foreground rather) of the entire story. I wish Ms. Stott had focused more on the essence of the alchemy Newton practiced (by going into further details; I was particularly hoping that she would go deep into the nature of the spirituality of his version of alchemy) and developed the story around it. I think I kept turning pages in the hope that this would happen at some point. The book is hardly a page turner. If you are looking for one, this is a very slow book. If you are seeking to see the depth of Newton's alchemy, this story only touches the surface. It is a shame that Ms. Stott must have had all the tools to satisfy her readers in this department with. Having said that. every reader approaches a book with different expectations; some people might have found this book satisfying.
AutumnNights More than 1 year ago
I read this book on vacation last year and found myself really drawn into it. I had a hard time putting it down. I wouldn't say it was the best book I've ever read, but it was an interesting read, it held my attention and it was ultimately enjoyable. I think the concept is unusual and the stuff about Isaac Newton was pretty cool. Despite the mixed reviews, I recommend giving it a try.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was expecting alot more from this book. Like the other reviewer, there was way too much science in this book instead of a mystery. If I wanted to learn about Newton and his experiments I would have gotten I biography. I was sick of reading about the science and just wanted to read the story.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fairly engaging story which mixes a little bit of historical fiction, some supernatural, some mystery & murder, all mixed in with a contemporary storyline. Throw in some little-known facts about Isaac Newton, & it makes for an interesting storyline. However, I think having listened to the abridged audio on this one, the story was not given justice. I felt like parts were missing & transitions were not exceptionally smooth. The reader was decent enough, but I did have trouble distinguishing between who was saying what, & which thoughts were spoken & which were only thoughts running through the narrator's head. I suspect I would've enjoyed this more had it not been abridged. As it were, it will probably become a fairly forgettable story for me.
hmskip on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was interested by the historical background of this book, but could never get interested the modern-day part of the story. I read it to the end, but it was a chore.
MichaelDeavers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest all the way. My neighbor gave me this book to read. Knowing that I truly respect and admire one of the greatest scientists that ever lived, Sir Isaac Newton. Well, I jumped at the chance to read a story where Newton was given a role, maybe even center stage. Needless to say I never became bored with this book. The author created a great tale blending the new world with olden times of Newton. It was very apparent that Ms. Scott did a tremendous amount of research into the subject matter, which I appreciated. I enjoyed the book and it kept my interest all the way until the last page.
sogamonk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Could not get into this book.Read 90 pages and the writing did not engage my interest at all.Good premise, but, did not deliver for me.
2chances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Elizabeth Vogelsang, Cambridge historian, is found drowned, her son Cameron contacts his ex-lover Lydia to ask if she will complete Elizabeth's final manuscript - an investigation of Isaac Newton's alchemical research, which is missing two critical chapters. Lydia's own research draws her into dangerous revelations about the Cambridge of 1665 and a series of murders there, which are reflecting into - bleeding into - modern Cambridge. You probably didn't see what I did there, with the "bleeding" and "reflecting", but if you read this book, you will. Rebecca Stott is okay with beating a motif to death.Alas, this is a book that suffers from a brilliant idea, indifferently executed. One of the back-cover reviewers refers to "shimmering prose" (enough already with the Newtonian light metaphors!) and it IS pretty good prose. But Stott spends so much time on lovely metaphors and lush descriptions and Newtonian light and color motifs that the actual story moves at a glacial pace. If I were her (which I'm not, and anyway the book is already published so it's too late anyway), I would have spent a lot more time on developing more fully-formed characters and telling a marvelous story.
krizia_lazaro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a nice speculative, historical fiction about Newton. Before reading this book, all I knew about Newton was he discovered GRAVITY. This book gives you a different perspective on Newton, a very different one. One thing I've noticed from Ms. Stott is that she loves words. She uses words repeatedly, exploring them and their different meanings, e.g. lie, embroil, entangle, etc. She's got a rich vocabulary. The only thing I didn't like about it is the lack of excitement leading to the BIG reveal. Stott just dumped everything in one go and I didn't quite expect it (not in a good way). the start and middle of the story was quite slow for me then towards the end, the story hastened, Stott seems to be in a hurry to finish the book. If the pacing was really good, I might have given this 5 stars.
TheBentley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Undoubtedly one of the best novels I've read in several years. Beautiful, poetic, multi-layered, and completely original. The mystery is page-turning, the historical and scientific background is interesting, and the supernatural is understated but threatening. The horror style is similar to DuMaurier, but the plot and the layering is more sophisticated. Outstanding.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Cambridge in 2002-3, Ghostwalk opens with the death of a writer and seventeenth-century historian. Her son Cameron Brown, who discovered her body, enlists his former lover to finish the book his mother began. All Lydia Brooke has to do is convert Elizabeth's notes for the final chapter of the book into prose form. But as Lydia does so, she uncovers a mystery involving the deaths of five people in the late 1660s that may or may not be connected with several modern-day murders that have taken place. Added on top of all this is an animal-rights group, who may or may not be killing animals in and around Cambridge. The writing style is OK (though a little confusing, what with the mixture of first, second, and third person narration), but there's a lot missing here. Newton's not a very interesting person to write about, and Stott doesn't do the scientist any justice in this novel. The modern-day characters seem a little bit flat, and Lydia Brooke, for all her intelligence, doesn't quite "get" things, even when they're laid right before her eyes! In all, this book was an admirable effort, but not something I'd recommend. Try Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale instead.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Historian Stott blends 17th century history surrounding alchemy and Sir Isaac Newton with a contemporary mystery taking place in Cambridge. The plot structure was original and Stott shines by bringing in fascinating historical information about Newton and his contemporaries. However, the plot sometimes depends on mysticism to explain the action which always seems like an easy out for an author. Maybe Stott was trying to contrast Newton the rationalist with Newton the alchemist here, but I ended up enjoying the rationalist side better than the spiritual. And in the end, the connections between a series of murders in Newton's time to some violent encounters in our time depended too much on the magical for my taste.
paperhouses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slightly interesting in re 17th c. history & alchemy & modern cambridge intelligentsia. However, the dual plot lines never satisfactorily coalesced although there seemed to be a hint that they would. Thereby the plot, pacing, and timeline of the novel seemed muddled to me. Perhaps I missed the point where they converged, but that, then, is equally problematic. I think there were too many layers in the novel attempted and unresolved. So, a spotty first novel, but I did learn a bit from it. Felt she could have left out the entire NABED issue and the book would have been stronger for it.
daisygrl09 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whoa! This was a rough one. Did not enjoy at all. Took 2 weeks to get through. That's really bad.
tmbcoughlin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author weaves in Newton, glass history, supernatural elements, biological warfare, animal rights and a lover's relationship. To me, the book attempts too many directions along with the changing perspective of the narrator to be an enjoyable read. It took me until chapter 9 to catch the rhythm of the book.
stevenj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
solid and satisfying, for fans of Byatt's "Possession"