Literary Corner Cafe

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Angelica is a Masterpiece

After finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I was quite immersed in the world of Victorian literature, so I picked up a copy of Arthur Phillips' Angelica. I loved his previous book, The Egyptologist, so Angelica seemed like a "sure thing" for me. It was. I don't know when I've enjoyed a book more.

Angelica takes place in late-Victorian London and revolves around the Barton household: Joseph, his seemingly very neurotic wife, Constance, their four-year-old daughter, Angelica, and even their "sturdy Irish maid," Nora. Of course other sundry characters enter the picture, such as actress-turned-spiritualist, Anne Montague, Joseph's "friend," Harry Delacorte, and the lemon cake loving Dr. Miles.

Angelica is the story of many things. It's a ghost story. It's a story of the deterioration of a marriage. It's a story of child abuse and its consequences. It's a story of lust. It's a story of love. Above all, it's a story of ultimate sadness. The book, in Phillips' able hands, is perfectly written. Not one word could be replaced with one better suited. It's a perfect marriage of art and craft. Arthur Phillips proved he certainly knew his stuff in The Egyptologist, and in Angelica, he even tops himself. Missing this book would be missing the reading experience of a lifetime. And don't worry about the open ending. All the clues are there and putting the puzzle pieces together is half the fun.

A book or two more and Arthur Phillips is going to be known as one of our greatest writers ever. His work is mesmerizing.

It Did End!

So, I finally finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and quite awhile ago, too. (I've been sidelined due to an injury.) I found the book enjoyable and I did like "getting lost" in the world or Strange and Norrell. Susanna Clarke is certainly a very imaginative writer, but the book wasn't without problems.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell suffers from a lack of focus. There is no throughline, no dramatic question to answer, and there's far too little interaction and conflict between Strange and Norrell. I have, however, purchased Clarke's book of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and I will probably read the novel she publishes next.

So...foreward! More books await!