Saturday, July 12

Elizabeth Pewsey: Unaccustomed Spirits

When struck down by shingles a woman postpones her wedding for the third time and travels to the country to housesit for a distant relative while she recuperates. She immediately falls in love with the decrepit old house and is devastated to discover the owner intends to pull it down.
Before long she is joined by an old school friend and a handsome ghost hunter, (not to mention an eclectic slew of visitors concerned for her health) that have her rethinking what she wants out of life.
A trip to Hungary to help a heavily pregnant friend leave the country is thrown in for good measure and a pair of ghosts commenting on the proceedings also features throughout the book.
This was really not so much a story as a chronology of events. I’d almost go out on a limb and call it ‘literature-lite’ if the writer’s voice had been in any way pretentious-which it was not. In fact, she has a tendency to use one of my pet peeves-writing out a sound then telling us what it was. (Brriing, brriing. The phone rang. This is not an example from the book because I couldn’t be bothered flipping through to find one but you get the idea). To be fair, this is the fifth book in a series and having not read the previous four I may be missing something. With that in mind:
The one thing that really stood out to me in this book is how dated it felt. Not just the European political situation, which must be accepted as a reflection of when the work was written but, for a work published only ten years ago, the characters’ ideas and attitudes. I don’t consider myself to have lived a particularly progressive life but I think these characters' belief systems would have been considered dated even back in the late 1990’s.
As for the juggling and shifting relationships between the characters, it was obvious right from the beginning who would be ending up together even though most romance takes place firmly off page.
It was also obvious the author has never had shingles. I have, and let me tell you the pain is such that gallivanting around the countryside is not on the agenda. And exposing a pregnant friend (or anybody come that matter) to the virus is irresponsible at best. Though the entire side trip to Hungary to escape the secret police section did little for the book but up the word count.
I’m still not sure the point of including the ghosts. They do not impact on the story or characters in any way. Their main function seems to be to provide an omniscient commentary on the other characters. A totally unnecessary role but well in keeping with the mood of this story.
I found this to be an uneven story that stutters about trying to decide where it wants to go. The writing is competent but lacks direction and spark leaving me with nothing better to say than it is inoffensive and rather forgettable.-Lynn

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