Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Report: Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris

Book Report:
Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris
In this psychotic ghost story, Harris spins a tale from the prospective of each of the 4 primary messed up pro/antagonists.  It takes place in what I would described as a nebulous of time around the waning of the Victorian era in the industrializing London.
-Henry Chester
-Effilia (Effi) Chester/Martha
-Fanny Miller
-Moses Harper

Henry is disturbed old man with Oedipal haunts that set in motion the destruction of the lives of everyone around him.
Effi is his wife and his lover, but he does not know they are the same person.
Henry issues probably began from a precocious adolescent slant on the preachings of his Oxford minister father.  This may be most apparent in the metaphoric narration he provides of his life.  He is insanely melodramatic in the most mundane of events.  Like me.  Just kidding.
It is never clear who we are as the reader/audience because while the voice changes as if we are listening to each person's personal account of the events, it is not possible for the tale to have been told in the time line presented.  That is, the story tellers, by nature of the events in the story, cannot be where they were, when they were, to have told the story in the manor in which it was delivered.  It is like this... If each person sat down at a particular point in time with an interviewer, and then, many years later when all of the interviews were collected, they were edited into an interlaced time line of the combined events, who would we be as the reader?  It is okay, but I kept waiting to find out who I was and what these otherwise trivial people were to me.
So, back to the story...
Henry, despite have a minister for a father, is independently wealthy.  Either his father was crooked, or was independently wealthy himself and was indeed a pious man and able to pass everything on to Henry.  Henry was a painter, but apparently not really very good.  He had a Nabokovian proclivity for little girls.  In his sick and twisted way, he grooms a young model of his from when she is 10 until she it 17 and marries her.
So, we hear from Effi and her tortuous relationship with Mr. Chester as she is required to address him.  Once it is apparent that she may actually enjoy the marital, obligatory, procreative act, she falls out of favor with Henry.  Did I mention he was nuts?  So he gets her hooked on opiates; laudanum, cheaper in fact than gin.  Chloral is his personal drug of choice.
Moses Harper is an opportunistic ladies man.  He was the most - accidental - of everyone here and I kinda feel the most sorry for him.  Sure, he seduces poor, frail little Effi, and has a sorted history with the brothel manager Fanny.
Fanny Miller is the true orchestrator of the major events and when things do not go her way, she manages to skip out "scott free" if you will.  She always had her own agenda.  As the audience, I was never really sure how I was supposed to feel about her. 
Henry and Effi were miserable, each in their own way.  Their misery wend down hill.  Mose, as he was called, dragged into the whole thing, and [i]could[/i] have come out of everything quite pleased, but it would not have been what he wanted and I think the orchestrator new this and planned a degree of comeuppance for him all along.  And Fanny basically ended where she began, except she got to dole out two serious helpings of comeuppance.
Ghost story?  Yeah... I do not want to give everything away.

The story over all is dark and "Gothic" I suppose and it really sucked me in, but I saw the let down from far off enough to be let down gently.

I am giving it a score of nine out of fifteen.  Good imagery, but penalties for overuse of the word 'capering.'

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