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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »


Customer Comments

Constant Reader has commented on (6) products.

The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier
The House on the Strand

Constant Reader, July 29, 2012

One of the best novels ever written!

Du Maurier is most famous - and deservedly so - for her novel "Rebecca". Thirty years (and a great many novels and short stories) later, she came out with this masterpiece. "The House on the Strand" weaves fact with fiction to stunning effect; Du Maurier's own house, Kilmarth (the dower house for Menabilly, which provided the background for "Rebecca") is the setting. Richard Young, a man going through a midlife crisis, acts as guinea pig for his brilliant scientist friend, Magnus. Magnus has stumbled across a potent drug that enables Richard to see and hear the events that occurred in Kilmarth and the surrounding area in the 14th century. Research proves that Richard is, indeed, witnessing real actions by real people, not experiencing hallucinations. The people, though, are so interesting, that Richard becomes an entirely different kind of drug addict, lying to his wife and stepsons and sneaking out of the house to get his "fix". A fascinating read with an unexpected ending.
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Constant Reader, September 1, 2011

And I don't even LIKE fantasy!

I'd read glowing reviews of this book, but I hesitated for a long time due to the fact that it's fantasy, which is not my genre. Finally, I gave in and bought it - and am I glad I did! Clarke sets her novel in the early years of the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, and even uses the spelling of that time. The story follows the title characters, two magicians (in Clarke's fantasy world, being a magician is a profession like any other) who are, at first, master and student, then rivals. The book is filled with fictional footnotes, and juggles multiple story threads with ease. The characters are human and flawed; the situations are fascinating; the names have a distinct ring of Dickens. As a matter of fact, if Dickens had written fantasy, it might well have been something like this.
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Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier
Frenchman's Creek

Constant Reader, February 18, 2011

Daphne du Maurier loved Cornwall, and often wrote of it, as she does here. This is the tale of 17th-century English noblewoman Dona St. Columb, who has tired of life in London (which du Maurier describes vividly; footpads in the night streets, evenings at the theatre where Dona is the only wife amidst a score of mistresses, dust and the stench of garbage in the streets).

Dona, on impulse, leaves London with her children and their nurse, headed for her husband's Cornwall estate. We discover that her husband, Harry, is as in love with her as he can be, but he is also a simpleton who is incapable of knowing what Dona really needs and wants from him; small wonder, then, that she insisted he remain in London. Dona revels in the freedom of the estate, playing with her children, and paying scant attention to local talk of a French pirate in the area. She soon finds, however, that the pirate is much closer to home than she thought.

Dona is one of the best female characters du Maurier - or anyone else - ever created. Intelligent, perceptive, sharply witty and independent, she chafes under the yoke of an unsuitable marriage, and finds herself and unexpected love in Cornwall. Her dialog alone is worth reading, but the book is a wonderful adventure tale, as well. Quite possibly, du Maurier was writing of her own wish to escape. Whatever the reason, the book is well worth reading again and again.
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A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
A Night to Remember

Constant Reader, November 5, 2010

A highly detailed description of the events that occurred the night the Titanic went down in the North Atlantic, with stories of what happened to the survivors later. This truly is THE book for anyone interested in the sinking of the "unsinkable" grand ocean liner, just two years before the outbreak of World War I.
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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Constant Reader, August 25, 2010

If you can imagine Dickens writing fantasy, that's what this book is like. Clarke has truly immersed herself in the early 19th century to create a perfect atmosphere for her novel, in which the practice of magic is a trade like any other. One of the title characters, Mr. Norrell, makes a name for himself, first in York, then in London, as a skilled magician who helps the government fight the French. Jonathan Strange, a younger man who chooses the profession of magic, and finds himself so adept at it that he becomes Mr. Norrell's pupil and, eventually, his rival. Ranging from England to Spain to Italy, taking in parts of a country called Faerie, and mentioning a land that lies on the far side of Hell, the book is consistently gripping. Parts of it had me gasping with delight at the plot twists. I was also pleased by the names of some of the characters, which are also reminiscent of Dickens' names: Greysteel, Childermass, Uskglass, Drawlight. I can even forgive Clarke for including real historical figures (such as King George III and the Duke of Wellington) in her narrative, something I do only rarely. This book is almost a thousand pages long, and the interest never wavers.
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