I'm not one to read fiction very often. Especially historical fiction, but this book caught my attention because it is loosely (not so loosely) based on the story of Mina Crandon, one of the many mediums to come from the occult and spiritualism craze of the early 20th century. Since I was way younger I've had an obsession with this period in history because It was America's attempt to socialize death in a way that was seperate from mourning. While I appreciate a modern attempt to re create this most interesting time period through narrative, I did not find the book to be that good.
Even though I'm not super into it, I decided to write about this book because recent events have caused me to think a lot about death and mourning. I recently was talking to a friend about the emotional processes of grief and how unique it is from every other emotional state. She made an excellent point stating that there's not much room for grief in our culture; traditionally the funeral and memorial services are finished in a day (depending on your religious background obviously) and then thats the end of the collective grief. In the early twentieth century there was a movement being promoted by entertainers and literary figures (i.e Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini) to speak to the dead, within the home, in a socialized setting. During this time many mediums surfaced and many were proven wrong. Mina Crandon was one of those psychics. She would claim to talk to her dead brother Walter, who would become violent occasionally. Mina was a lot more radical than most mediums at this time. She would sometimes perform her seances in the nude and shoot ectoplasm from her vagina.
The female lead, on who the book was based on, was done a huge injustice with her role in the novel. She is portrayed as a weak, over-sexual manipulator. She isn't central to the narrative whatsoever; she is mostly just being sexually objectified by the male lead, who narrates the book from a first person perspective. This character is one of the investigators for the Scientific American which comes to ultimately discredit her. I think it is a TRAVESTY what they have done to her in this book. Even the aesthetics of the cover suggests the kind of exploitation thats happening, her face unattainable as all these male hands reaching for it, so to speak. During this time there were so many women psychics with the "ability" to speak to the dead (i.e. The fox sisters, Mina Crandon, Leon0ra Piper) that were being investigated by 'science', which at the time was incredibly male dominated. Maybe this was a reflection of what was going on between the sexes politically at this time.... or maybe not. Regardless there was an obvious separation of the sexes within this realm. Even the men that were apart of the movement were ultimately out to exploit this underground sensation. Or maybe Im projecting and rambling. Regardless, my point is its not very clever for someone to write a FICTIONAL novel about a very interesting time in history and use it to create some sort of jack-offery for male readers is it? Its not worth reading, but Mina Crandon is worth some investigation.