The Servants

The Servants

by Michael Marshall Smith


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061494161
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/09/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Michael Marshall Smith attended Cambridge University, where he spent the majority of his time writing and performing comedy with the Cambridge Footlights, which led to two series for the BBC. He's the author of the trilogy comprised of The Straw Men, The Upright Man, and Blood of Angels. He lives in England.

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Servants 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
stephenaturton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My expectations are too high for me to actually enjoy this.It was alright, not a proper return to MMS's form but more interesting than the Micheal Marshall books he's been writing lately.
JayDugger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Servants tells the story of a young boy simultaneously resolving the fetters of the ghosts that haunt his home and coming to terms with his step-father. Michael Marshall Smith writes well. His skill shows in The Servants by creating a very distinct atmosphere with a minimum of words. Excellent craftsmanship doesn't save this book from boring this reader. Nothing frightening happens in this story. I'd call The Servants as worthwhile reading only if you want to study technique. Otherwise, skip it for something scary.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eleven-year-old Mark has moved to a large eighteenth century house on the Brighton seafront with his seriously ill mother and his new stepfather. For some reason Mark hasn't started school in Brighton, so his days are sent learning to skateboard and trying to get the better of his stepfather. Not realising how ill his mother is, Mark thinks his stepfather is deliberately preventing his mother from doing anything interesting, and restricting Mark's access to her.But once Mark meets the old lady who rents the basement flat in their house, he finds that strange things happen when he goes through the door from her flat into the unconverted servants' quarters.This short book was a birthday or Christmas present from my brother. The author is new to me, but apparently he mostly writes science fiction, so this ghost story was a bit of a departure for him. It has been nominated for both the British and World Fantasy Awards.Spooky but not scary, "The Servants" is a book that grew on me as it went along. The only thing that annoyed me about it was that house was described using the American usage 1st floor/2nd floor instead of ground floor/1st floor. Since the house was in England and Mark was English, it really jarred.
craso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel is definitely aimed at young readers. The main character is Mark, an eleven year old who is bored and restless. His parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. They recently moved to Brighton, a beach resort town. It is the off season and there aren¿t many things for him to do. The weather is bad and his mother and stepfather never leave the house because his mother is very ill. Mark constantly argues with David, his stepfather. The house they live in has a basement apartment where a little old lady lives. Mark gets to know the lady and she explains to him that the basement of the house is where the servants lived and worked. He takes the key to the door that leads to the servant¿s area and discovers that they are all still working there.The servants working below stairs are an allegory of what happens when people struggle against one another instead of working together. The below stairs becomes a disorganized mess and Mark explains to the servants what their rolls are so that they can function smoothly again. He learns to stop constantly pushing to live the way he did when his parents were together. He starts to flow with the changes instead of struggling against them. This symbolism even stretches to his skateboarding where he learns to relax instead of trying to hard.The story is written well and it was a very fast read. I bought it because it was nominated for the 2008 World Fantasy Award. The problem is there isn¿t much fantasy here. It¿s more about a young person learning to deal with life¿s ups and downs. The story isn¿t frightening and the servants aren¿t ghosts. They are just there to illustrate a point.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book through the amazon vine program. It sounded like an interesting premise to a story. Thought the story was well-written, the plot was slow moving, boring, and somewhat anti-climatic.Mark is forced to move out of London to the vacation town of Brighton with his mother and new step-father. Mark sees his step-father as controlling and doesn't understand his mother's constant illness. This takes a stranger turn when Mark is shown the servant's quarters underneath their new house by an old woman who lives on the bottom floor. When Mark visits this area alone strange things happen; could these events somehow be connected to his mother's illness?This is a very quick read and a very short book. That being said somehow the story is still very drawn out and somewhat vague. Although the writing style is great, I found myself getting as bored as Mark was. Maybe that was the point. Even as events unfolded under the house I found myself bored. I figured out the link between the house and Mark's mother almost immediately; so I didn't even have that surprise to look forward too.Overall I found this book to be dull; this book probably could have been cut down to novella size and made a great story. To me this was more of a short-story than a book. I don't think I will be keeping track of this author in the future.
cabri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a lovely little ghost story told from the point of view of an 11-year-old boy whose parents have gone through a divorce and remarriage over the past year. He's been forced to leave London for a cold lonely life in Brighton and fears that his mother's new husband has less than good intentions. Visits with the old lady who lives in the basement apartment distract him and then transport him to another world that is also falling apart before his eyes. I read this the day I bought it over the course of about 2.5 hours. The horrors downstairs at first echo the anger upstairs but perhaps get a bit heavy-handed towards the end, then the story wraps up very quickly, bumping it from 4 stars to 3.5. However, it was a very good read and something I will recommend to friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So different
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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