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Hiding from the Light (2003) by Barbara Erskine
#1
This book is not a Gothic romance, but it is a Gothic novel. Barbara Erskine is usually an excellent Gothic romance writer who writes about past lives and ghosts. But this book was really quite a mess. She needed a good editor. Desperately.

This book is a tome at 736 pages. And it had me up to about page 400 or so, until I realized that there were too many characters and too many "talking" scenes that were simply duplicating each other. How many times do people need to get together to talk about "something being wrong."

The story is basically the following (off the book jacket.)

Across the peninsular the mist rolled in, its icy fingers curling up the cliffs. Inside their houses people stirred in their sleep and children cried in the dark. The parish of Manningtree and Mistley has a dark history. In 1644, with England in the grip of a Puritan government, Matthew Hopkins, Cromwell's Witchfinder General, tortured scores of women there, including Liza, the herbalist, whose cottage still stands in Mistley, and Sarah Paxman, the daughter of the manor. And today the spirits of Hopkins and his victims haunt the old shop in the High Street, they say. Emma Dickson has given up her high-flying career to live in Liza's cottage, but now she is being driven half-mad by visions of the past; of Sarah's battle to save herself and Liza from the Witchfinder. In despair, Emma turns to the local rector for help, but he, too, is in the grip of something inexplicable - something which threatens Emma. And, as the feast of Halloween approaches, Emma is caught up in a struggle that has been raging for centuries, as old enemies reach out across the years for their revenge. Can she stop the forces unleashed from the past wreaking their devastation in the present?

There are some really disturbing scenes in this book. Matthew Hopkins and his allies were real. What they did to their victims was real and horrific. Erskine does an amazing job of recreating the horror of these scenes. Sometimes fictional horror takes a back seat to what actually happens in real life.

But Erskine loses her way. The book goes on and on. There is no romance. The suspense wears out about halfway through and the scenes becoming grinding. Then it turns into bad 70s horror in which everything you thought turns out to be wrong. But not in a good way. In a really lame "huh?" way. And I really don't understand Erskine's political or religious motivations in her decisions. (I'll leave that to you to decide should you ever read it.)

So, I give it a C-. Such potential, but what a headshaking waste of time.
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Hiding from the Light (2003) by Barbara Erskine - by Desdemona - 11-27-2008, 04:49 PM

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