Sunday, June 5, 2016
The Broken Hours Review
"What is it about the darkness which draws us?... I, who feared once, as a child, not the witching autumn, but spring, that clear-lighted season of ghosts... There was something in me, I knew, something perhaps in us all which, no matter our rational selves, was haunted." -- The Broken Hours
The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker is a dreamlike novel, a haunting narrative that serves as a framework for the psyche of a writer that is today more popular than ever.
The year is 1936. H.P. Lovecraft lives in a house that itself appears to be haunted, but not so much by a ghost than by the deteriorating writer that occupies it.
A contemporary literary ghost story, The Broken Hours is an unsettling novel that plays with the reader's perceptions of the real. Notions of madness, which are often central to Lovecraft's fictional universes, are employed to great effect when protagonist Arthor Crandle accepts a position as Lovecraft's assistant. Ideas surrounding identity and how we perceive reality are elevated in the interplay between Lovecraft and Crandle (the latter's name, in both appearance and phonetically somehow quintessentially Lovecraftian). Lovecraft communicates with Crandle only via letters; the two almost never speak face to face. On the main stairwell of the house, Arthor more than once experiences an ominous presence and at night, when Lovecraft writes in his study, the light is visible from underneath the door inside the house, but not from outside the house, looking in.
The Broken Hours is a lyrical homage to the weird that employs one of the genre's most recognisable figures as a signpost around which a maelstrom of psychic elements collect. The dreamlike quality of the language contributes to a building sense of unease, of feeling lost, of not being able to distinguish fiction from fact. I expect that those looking for details of Lovecraft's more well-known fictional creations may be disappointed. Rather, Jacqueline Baker's "novel of H.P. Lovecraft" is The Turn of the Screw gone Weird in the best possible way. Highly recommended, even if you know little about Lovecraft's own fiction; in fact, the novel may serve as an enlightening foundation for reading his fiction for the first time.