I’ll put you out of your misery – the latest addition to my 50 Books is David Lindsay’s The Haunted Woman. It’s one of the books which came to my mind first when planning the list, and one of those which I still have in my mind over three years since reading it. I’ll warn you, though, reactions have been rather widespread – just within the blogging world, Lisa at BlueStalking and Elaine at Random Jottings thought almost exactly the opposite. Lisa put it in her top ten reads of 2004, whilst Elaine thought it was silly and pretty poor – all the more fun when opinion is disparate, isn’t it?! (On a completely unrelated note, did you know that the correct term for ‘?!’ is an interrobang?)
I’ll quote the blurb from my copy of The Haunted Woman:
Engaged to a decent but unexceptional man, Isbel Loment leads an empty life, moving with her aunt from hotel to hotel. She is perverse and prickly with untapped resources of character and sensibility. They explore by chance a strange house and there Isbel meets Judge, its owner; a profoundly disturbing relationship develops and it is from this that the drama unfolds.
They obviously don’t want to give the staircase bit away, but I shall – there is a staircase which offers three doors at the top. Isbel takes one of them, which leads to a room, where she meets Judge again. When they return to the main house, neither remember what has taken place in the room. And so it goes on, with parallel existences and relationships. All the way throughout the novel there is the mystery of what remains behind the other doors…
David Lindsay’s writing is sometimes criticised for not being very fluid or well styled, but I just found it took a little getting used to – sure, he’s not Virginia Woolf, but I didn’t find it stood out as awful. And, for me, the plot and intrigue and characters more than make up for this. I sometimes love books for language, regardless of plot (e.g. Tove Jansson’s writing) but equally sometimes plot takes precedence over language. And Lindsay manages to combine the two in a way which leads to a beautiful surrealism by the end, and produces a novel which is quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Give it a try.