Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The White Forest ~ Review
Author: Adam McOmber
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.
I have mixed feelings about this book ~ it left me in a weird mood, kind of depressed and grouchy and blank. The imagery is cold and frigid, not of this earth, stark and alien. I kept picturing the landscape like one that had the life sucked out of it and all that was left was a white husk.
The story is told from the point of view of Jane Silverlake - a plain girl who sounds like she has an ethereal beauty, white skin and gray eyes. She is not a nice person, not really. She torments her maid, and her feelings for her friends, Maddy and Nathan, are excessive bordering on obsessive. I think the story being told from her viewpoint is one reason the book is so cold ~ Jane is not that warm of a person. She is isolated and removed and detached from the world, with the exception of her friends. And even that is a little messed up ~ she wants all their attention, Maddy's and Nathan's, and doesn't seem to even want to share them with each other.
Jane also has a special talent ~ she can feel the vibrations and colors from man made objects, their souls if they had one. If one were to touch her skin, they would feel this through her. Her power can kill and topple buildings and swallow people up, sending them to a world called the Empyrean. Nathan is obsessed with her power, and wants to feel more and more of it. Nathan and Maddy also have a special relationship, without Jane. This leads to some major issues, and Nathan disappears.
The rest of the book is finding Nathan, and learning more about his interests and Jane's talents. It gets all mystical, with the White Forest, white apes, Ariston Day and his fetches, the Lady of the Flowers and the Empyrean.
I did love the poetic-like writing of this novel ~ it flowed beautifully and evoked haunting images, and the story itself was haunting as well. You really felt transported to another world and time, and the mystery kept your attention.
This book was unexpected ~ it was not like what I thought it would be like at all. Although it was all a surprise, I did find myself liking it, although it was a little weird and cold. I could picture reading in winter, when the world outside was just as white and unearthly.