Tuesday, June 17, 2008

GHOSTWALK

Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott, Spiegel & Grau, 2007, 284 pp

This was a good companion to Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson, because it is about Isaac Newton, though the main characters are contemporary. Stott combines historical fiction, obsessive love and a sort of supernatural blend of past and present where incidents from the past show up in various present locations in Cambridge, both the town and the university.

Lydia Brooke is a writer who returns to Cambridge for the funeral of historian Elizabeth Vogelsang, who died while working on a history of Newton and his involvement with alchemy. Lydia had left Cambridge to escape a hopeless affair with Vogelsang's married son Cameron, a medical researcher who is developing a psychiatric drug. On her return, she again gets involved with Cameron, who asks her to finish his mother's book.

Lydia moves into Elizabeth Vogelsang's house and immediately things get strange with mysterious lights in the house among other things, including a psychic, animal rights activists and further deaths. She finally solves it all and the story is therefore also a mystery.

I liked it. The writing is rather dreamy, time is fluid and while events are confusing, I felt I was in the hands of a good writer who moved the story along at a brisk pace. It was helpful to already know quite a bit about Newton and his life in the 1760s. Also I found it interesting to get a look at Newton from a different slant than Stephenson's. I was reminded of Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd, which I read years ago, where murders committed in the 20th century had parallels in the 18th century.

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