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BOOK REVIEW:

The Lost History of Dreams: A Novel

When famous, and some would claim infamous, poet Hugh de Bonne dies unexpectedly, his last remaining family relations are called upon to enact his final request. De Bonne wishes to be buried on the moors near Shropshire, in a chapel of stained glass he had built 16 years earlier as the final resting place for his wife, Ada. He wants his body placed in the chapel next to that of his wife and for a daguerreotype to be made of their remains accompanied by his niece by marriage, Isabelle Lowell.

Robert Highstead, de Bonne’s cousin, is a former Oxford historian and now works as a photographer of the dead. He is still mourning the loss of his own wife three years earlier. Highstead transports the poet’s body to Weald House, the site of “Ada’s Folly,” as the chapel has become known, and where Isabelle lives in seclusion with a handful of servants. Continually besieged by the devotees of de Bonne’s poetry, who make pilgrimages regularly to Weald House and make repeated requests that Ada’s Folly be opened for them. Isabelle is initially reticent to allow de Bonne’s body to be placed in the chapel. However, she agrees reluctantly, but only on the condition that Robert, as a historian, document Ada’s life with Hugh and have it published. She will tell Ada’s story over the course of five evenings, at the end of which the chapel will be opened. Isabelle will pose with the remains of her aunt and uncle so Robert may take the photograph necessary to fulfill de Bonne’s final request.

As Isabelle describes Ada’s life and tells the story of Hugh and Ada’s tumultuous and ill-fated marriage, questions begin to arise. How can Isabelle know this story in such detail? If she is a witness to what happened, why does she play no part in the story she is telling? It becomes clear to Robert that Isabelle cannot be telling the truth, or, at best, not the entire truth. But how do you determine the truth in the midst of such strongly guarded secrets?

In her fiction debut, Kris Waldherr, the author of several non-fiction titles, weaves a haunted tale of love discovered and lost, and the shackles that can bind those who love together even after death. This a classic Gothic tale, in the tradition of Wuthering Heights. There is an estate in decay, characters who may, or may not, be exactly who they appear, all of whom are continually threatened by ill-health and/or injury. While Waldherr comes perilously close to cliché, she never crosses over into it, and her lush descriptions of the period and locations, along with de Bonne’s era perfect poetry, make this a gripping and atmospheric read.

Within the novel, Waldherr writes that “all love stories are ghost stories in disguise.” The Lost  History of Dreams is a perfect blending of the two. 

The book is available on e-Media

 

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