The Ghost Of The Mary Celeste
For our festive book-club choice, I decided it would be appropriate to read a spooky, ghostly novel that we could all curl up with as the strong (London) winds howled outside in deep December. I went for a book that seemed to have multiple layers, not only a ghost story, but centered around a historical mystery; The Ghost of The Mary Celeste. The Times described it as 'dripping with atmosphere’ and the few reviews I found online granted the book much praise, so I didn’t think I could go wrong….
Out of the Citylickers, I may be the only one who actually believes in ghosts, so I did wonder if this book would be received with joy or woe. And as a self-described ‘seasonal reader’ I love to read gothic and scary novels during the winter, I thought I’d try and pass this love on to my fellow bookies.
The book ‘s central theme is the abandoned crew of the ship Mary Celeste in 1872- the crew’s disappearance led to much speculation and wonder throughout the general public of the day and still the mystery remains to be solved (or does it?). The novel uses Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the principle characters in an attempt to add more realism to the story line.
The plot itself was not as compelling as I’d hoped, and I for one found the swinging back and forth between the different strands of the story a bit clumsy, often I found myself having to re-read pages as I hadn’t really been absorbing the story (never a good sign).
The part of the plot that I found most interesting was the story of Violet Petra (an apparently gifted psychic). I found the question of whether she really believed herself to be psychic or not the most compelling question of the novel. I believe my fellow city-lickers disagreed with me on this point though, as I don’t think any of them much cared whether she was psychic or not!
I’m not sure we would recommend this book as a good or even spooky read, none of us found the book particularly thrilling, scary or intriguing (all elements that make a good ghost story or mystery). Perhaps one of the redeeming qualities of the book was that it raised the question of how people deal with loss and events that are beyond our human comprehension. Some people speculate and allow their imaginations to take them on journeys beyond the material world and others just believe in plain, cold facts.
Can the skeptical ever believe in the supernatural?
Apparently, in our case, no.
I set about finding a haunted London pub or restaurant in which to discuss our (not so) spooky novel. After quite a lot of searching I found a pub near Baker Street, (very apt for our Sherlock Holmes sub-plot) The Volunteer - (apparently) haunted by the ghost of Richard Neville.
(Side note) The Volunteer public house on Baker Street (so named as it recruiting up station during the war) is reputedly built upon the site of a large 17th Century house that was once owned by the Neville family. This building burnt down in 1654 and the Nevilles were lost in the flames. However, Rupert Neville is said to haunt the pubs cellars.
This pub on a busy December evening could not have appeared less haunted if it had tried. Luckily we had the foresight to book a table as the pub was exceptionally packed, but their Christmas decorations were particularly sparkly, a slight consolation. The food itself was pretty-standard pub grub, and the portions were American-sized, needless to say none of us went out into the night either spooked or starving, so perhaps a successful night overall. As evidenced by our pictures of the evening, our secret santa provided much more entertainment and mystery than this novel.
Chosen and written by Becka.