The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

38597783All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.

When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.

However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.

As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage–including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t–things from beyond the grave.

I’m choosy with my Gothic fiction. A large part of the issue I had with this novel is that it was missing one of the keystones of Gothic literature, in all eras: a setting that is a character itself. For all the talk of a glass cathedral and a house on the moors, we do not get nearly enough descriptions. They are not brought to life as they should be so that we are transported there, so that we can feel the chill in the rooms, the smell of the just-snuffed out candles.
Part of the reason for this is that the story has an uneven pace. There’s always too much happening at one time and too many locations to keep track of. The love story we’re supposed to be rooting for is insta-love, which has never worked for me, and which only accentuates the pacing issues. The middle of the book is the best part, at least for me, and although the big reveals are supposed to make us stagger back, they don’t quite manage to do that. Again, I blame pacing issues and the author’s failure to create a true Gothic atmosphere.

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