How much worse are suitors, who to men’s lust
Are made preys? O, worse than dust or worms’ meat,
For they do eat you now, whose selves worms shall eat. – John Donne, Thou shalt not laugh in this leaf, Muse (British Poet, Satirist, Author, 1572-1631)
The sin of pride may be a small or a great thing in someone’s life, and hurt vanity a passing pinprick, or a self-destroying or ever murderous obsession. – Iris Murdoch (British Novelist and Philosopher, 1919-1999)
We’re going to start a rumour. It’s easy: here’s how. And thus starts a tale of twisted obsession, of ghostly presence and lucid dreaming. A tale of suffering. But whose? And how far will obsession live within the soul? To the grave? Beyond?
Too late hee would the paine asswage,
And to thick shadowes does retire;
About with him hee beares the rage,
And in his tainted blood the fire.
Edmund Waller –The selfe-banished – (English Poet and Politician,1606 – 1687)
Isabella, or Isa to her friends, lives a life of quiet desperation in South Africa. The mistress of a married man for the past thirteen years, Isa has set aside her own needs for those of her lover, Eric. Eric, who has just died, leaving her with nothing but heartache.
In the night, as she lies dreaming, the phone rings, a flat, atonal sound, odd and strangely off-key, and the crackling voice of her cousin, Alette comes through. Alette, the wild and flighty girl with whom Isa was raised. Alette the strong, Alette the vibrant. And, as Isa is soon to learn, Alette who is two days dead.
Now back in London to close Allete’s estate, Isa receives a message from Allete along with a copy of her will. A very odd and devastating message, which leads Isa to carry out a twisted scheme against Jason, Allete’s ex-husband – an ex-husband whose tortures Allete lays out in a letter, sealed for only Isa.
Lucid dreaming, African mysticism. Alchemy and premonitions. Mostert’s The Midnight Side is a brooding, atmospheric tale of suspense and psychological thrill, full of the kinds of fear and gloomy atmosphere sure to lure in even the most jaded of readers. Isa wanders through the halls of her dreams, following orders, reaching out . . . and changing within herself. The Vigyan Bhairava Tantra, the seventh sutra, says, “ . . . reach the heart at the instant of sleep and seek direction over dreams and over death itself.” Is Isabella following her heart? Or are the dreams of death drawing back the soul of her beloved cousin?
What cruelty, wasted love – love which lies only in recompense? Mostert speaks to deep waters of the mind, dark corners of the soul, the ruin brought on by wounded and damaged souls. And yet, her journey also showcases the beauty and drabery of London itself, with it’s fogs and rains, the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery of the British Museum, the odd libraries and collections, the tea shops and cathedrals. The mass of cultures and foods and beliefs. A brooding city of history and blood and loss and joy, all wrapped up in banks of fog and fire, melancholy, and old, old guilt.
What Isa does and doesn’t do, thinks and feels and suffers leads you through murky darkness, fear, and the question, or promise, of forbidden destiny.
I received this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. Highly recommended.