Monday, December 17, 2012

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino

It’s Jane Eyre meets The Twilight Zone.

Skip the literary mash-ups and their staples of zombies and vampires, and go right to good old-fashioned weird.

This Gothic tale has the Victorian trappings with surreal worlds and creatures. Charlotte Markham is no stranger to Death, having lost everyone she has loved over the years. She comes to Blackfield village as the governess to the Darrow boys, whose mother recently died. It is a bleak time, with grief still running its course, so Charlotte arrives to interesting times with an unsettled household.

Events take a strange turn when there is a string of murders hinting at supernatural cause, and a walk in the woods takes Charlotte and the boys to a fantastical place with bizarre creatures, aptly named The Ending, where they encounter their mother at the House of Darkling, alive again. It is a second chance of sorts and an unusual turn to the grieving process, with a supernatural game in the play, and Charlotte, being so closely tied to Death, is a key player who needs to figure out the rules because the fate of the world is the prize.

As fantastical as the worlds and creatures contained in this book are, this novel is not your typical fantasy or fairy tale. The story itself is the mourning process in motion with its illogical and unpredictable ups and downs. The characters are flawed but realistic, possessing a strength and integrity, as they deal with grief and struggle to move on. There are stories within stories, overlapping worlds, and lives intersecting in surprising ways. The novel is suitably atmospheric and nuanced with poetic imagery full of otherworldly strangeness. Boccacino captures and writes beautifully about the surreal, with dreams and other worlds bleeding into the real world.

Look for Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling in the VBPL Catalog (Do not skip the extras---Boccacino includes his own recommendations and the story behind this story). Meddling governesses have a way of turning up, so try classics like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Turn of the Screw by James Henry, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Watson Winifred.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Based on this review, I read the book. Chilling, clever, and reminiscent of a Poe story, this is a great example of a young writer who has captured the voice of older gothic novelists. The main character, Charlotte, is lovable and strong, despite all her losses and struggles. Loved it!