Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams
This Gothic historical novel was a nearly perfect read: it held a snaky plot and thorny characters nestled in compelling narrative and deeply resonant themes. All love stories are ghost stories, we'll read more than once in this book, but this novel is more than a love story, more than a ghost story.
The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
Review copy provided by publisher
Historical Fiction challenge
At the center of the novel is an imagining of the life of a Byron-like literary genius (and in those parts, I was reminded of Possession) touched with the unabashed, insistent naming of the woman behind such a figure. But surrounding that outward story is tortured emotions stretched taut to the point of madness (I was reminded of Sarah Waters and the way she writes about grief, ghosts, and getting even) and deft, quiet moments of revelation that hummed in the heart.
I love Gothic novels for the wild, expansive emotion of them (I consider them as having the emotional equivalent of someone using their outdoor voice inside, and I say this as someone who is a proud outside voice-r) and Waldherr doesn't disappoint. The characters and settings are intense and vivid and could be pulled out of a Gothic keyword grab bag -- a post-mortem photographer, a grieving spinster, a mausoleum of glass, a casket in a barn -- and they satisfy that Gothic craving and settle into their appointed role -- while still rebelling against expectations. This book fairly bristles with the unsaid, the sorrows unnamed and unseen, and the narrative explodes where the characters can't. Every time I thought I had ah-ha'd my way behind the curtain, Waldherr surprised me once more -- and it was delightful.