Tuesday 24 April 2012

Book review. "Hide Me Among The Graves" by Tim Powers

I finished "Hide Me Among The Graves" by Tim Powers yesterday.

It's impossible not to have high expectations when reading the sequel of your all time favourite book in that genre : "The Stress Of Her Regard".

The main sign that I really adored the book and plunged into it completely is that I had some very vivid dreams last night, directly related to the end of the book. And then leading into a complex story concocted by my subconscious. This is a sign that I was very immersed in the book, plus I can't get it out of my mind which is also good.

I might have wanted a couple of things developed further, but I can see that they are not necessary as such. And I missed seeing some characters from a "closer" point of view maybe. Well, it's obvious that no one can replace the flamboyant Lord Byron as written by Powers, one of my favourite characters ever written. Trelawny did a good job though, in the end I really came to like the guy as horrid as he had been at first.

I was so curious to see how Tim would tackle the subject of my favourite group of artists, the story involves the Rossetti family and links back to the fact that John Polidori (who was Byron's physician) was their uncle. He's the common link in more than one way, between both books.

What struck me was that, while for me the Pre-Raphaelites are all about painting, colours and light, the book concentrated only on the poetry aspect of the Rossettis. I was initially surprised to see a subdued and almost colourless picture take shape as I read along. Thinking about this I realised it gave the story the right feeling of gloom.

I loved the familiar sense of horror that I always enjoyed in Tim's books. I'm not a fan of horror books but I like dark stories. Subtle hints that something is not right and then the sudden realisation that, something wicked is lurking. Until it takes your breath away.

I liked that unlike his father in “Stress” John Crawford isn't totally clueless about what is happening to him. He knows all the reasons why his life has taken the course it has.
Eventually the lack of colours felt right with a protagonist living in constant sorrow at the loss of his family. Again, unlike his father, John never actually succumbed to the appeal of the vampires. I missed that a little, following one of the victims and realising how the succubae completely destroy their symbiont, despite giving them one thing in return: poetry. On the other hand this is not really needed, too many links back to the first book would mean that they can't be read separately which is entirely possible as such.

I also note that I am now twice the age I was when I read the first book, I may be a little jaded. I wonder if Byron would still bring to me this flavour of fascination if I met him today. I've always seen him and later the Pre-Raphaelites as the original rock stars. But of course it's all glitter and fake colours. 
I enjoyed it differently now, but I still have this mixture of excitement and fear rising in my gut, when the story leads us into dark tunnels. I know what lurks there...

As I said, one can read this book without reading the first part. It will take away this feeling of loss when Crawford recalls his parents who were the protagonists of "Stress" but it won't keep the reader from getting the whole plot. But I would say that one should really read the short story that connects both books "To Cast Away Stones" beforehand or at least right afterwards. Otherwise an important brick will be missing from the construction.

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