Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time Among the Dead

Title: Time Among the Dead
Author: Thomas Rayfiel
Pages: 158 in Bound Galley Print
Published: 2010 The Permanent Press
Read For: Library Thing Early Reviewers
My Rating: 3 out of 5 starts (somewhat below average execution mingled with somewhat above average premise)

Time Among the Dead is interesting and quick to read, although it feels unpolished. No doubt the plot device--an older gentlemen writing in a journal during his last days--has something to do with this, but one can't help feeling like there were parts of the book that had too great a contrast between practiced and amateurish writing to be convincing. To make a book seem as if it is written as a journal by someone who had never written anything before in their lives, while trying to accomplish some sort of background, plot, character, and setting development, and at the same time having as unstilted an air as possible--as to make it fluid and enjoyable to read--must be quite the challenge. It wasn't quite mastered in this piece, although some sentences were so good that I can't help but think that if the author had a little more time to spend revising the effect would have been much greater.

The main characters in this book immediately reminded me of the Hamleys in Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, which made me connect with them somewhat. There was definitely a late Victorian air about it, and I liked how the estate itself felt like it was decaying right along with the Earl's physical and mental health.  All of the sordid and sundry details of the people's lives in this book, however, got to be a bit tiresome. It was an interesting premise, one that I wish had been developed further.

A bit from page 19:
     He is nervous.  He is...in love.  It came upon me in that slow breaking way the sun dismantles a cloud.  Reexamining the girl Kate, I could certainly see how even a callow oaf such as my grandson could seize on such a relatively unspoilt specimen as entrĂ©e to that world where all laws are altered and all colors shift.  My heart was flooded with an equal admixture of pity and envy.

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