Thursday, May 10, 2012
For Straub Completists Only...
MRS. GOD by Peter Straub (2012 Pegasus Crime / 185 pp / hc)
Originally released in 1990 as a limited edition novella and then in 1991 as part of Straub's HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS collection, MRS. GOD is now available as a trade hardcover from Pegasus Crime. WHY Pegasus Crime? I haven't the slightest idea...and unless you are a DIE HARD Straub fan, you'll have no idea why they felt the necessity to re-re-release this downbeat tale. In fact, I AM a die hard Straub fan and couldn't tell you...
THAT said, MRS. GOD is an interesting if unclear tale dealing with American English professor William Standish, who is chosen over 600 other applicants to spend three weeks in England at Esswood House, which is the home of an incredible library of both published and non published works. Standish is a major fan of obscure poet Isobel Standish, who's also a distant relative of his. She only had one volume of her work published in the early 1900s, and Standish is amazed to find how many non-published pieces are at Esswood.
What I liked about MRS. GOD is the "Wicker Man"-type suspense building, which begins when Standish has a run-in with a strange pub owner, to his meeting with a mysterious woman who shows him to his room at Esswood House, to his dinner with Robert Wall, the Houses' generational caretaker. Standish spends his days studying countless texts, and his nights eating alone in the vast dining room. He continually hears laughter and sees things moving in the shadows, but is never sure if it's real or an after-effect of the wine and whiskey.
In the end, it's never clear if Straub was trying to tell an offbeat ghost story or give us a portrait of a father-to-be attempting to delay his future. As a booklover, I liked the scenes of Standish standing in awe of the Esswood library and Straub's prose here is slick and addictive. But even fans of "quiet" horror may have a hard time making it to the end of this one, despite it's short page count. An unsatisfying conclusion doesn't help matters, either.
For Straub completists ONLY.