My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: In the bestselling tradition of The Night Circus and Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, Adam McOmber’s hauntingly original debut novel follows a young woman in Victorian England whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society.
Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father at a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of manmade objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London's elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation, with the goal of discovering a new virtual reality, a place he calls the Empyrean. A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late. Adam McOmber, whose short story collection This New and Poisonous Air earned glowing praise for its evocative prose, here reveals a gift for fantastical twists and dark turns that literary fans will relish.
My thoughts: Literary masterpiece! The story itself is odd yet compelling. The first ten pages are confusing but slowly the conflict takes shape. Jane, a somewhat backward girl, senses the living souls of matter. Sometimes deafening and disturbing and other times calming and complete, Jane shares her gift with her best friends, Maddie and Nathan. Unfortunately, Jane knows little of human nature and petty jealousies. The story gathers speed even in nineteenth century England, as Maddie and Jane try to solve the mystery of Nathan's disappearance. This will eventually lead them to the charismatic and possibly dangerous cult and persona of Ariston Day.
Feel free to leave any pre-conceived ideas about Genesis and "In the beginning..." The beginning may have begun before. I didn't love the conclusion although it is not disturbing. It is the logical conclusion. I loved the prose and originality and the way the story reveals itself in a way to be believable (in a surreal manner) and an enjoyable way to spend a day of reading.
It's weird and dark and can be compared to Night Circus in that way but not as much fun as Night Circus.