Phyllis Paul

The Sundial Press
Real-Time Review continued from HERE


“…the fatal idea of taking a large, old-fashioned house in the dreary suburbs of Croydon.”
I lived in Croydon’s suburbs from 1971 to 1994! But here the suburbs – a backshadow toward Victoria’s past – is very much in the realm of Elizabeth Bowen, both in prose style and feel. I can give it no greater compliment. Synergistic not derivative, regarding either author. I think EB was particularly enamoured of Croydon Airport, as well as the suburbs of her days and their ‘development’ often when limned by memories of the London Blitz. This is Pauline or Bowenesque development of plot in contiguity with Victoria’s own past filtered back and forth with Rachel’s, as told by one to the other, or by effectively multi-Narrator novel-building storey-levels to us readers. Rachel’s past is Brooknerian , i.e. like an essay in character-building by Anita Brookner. Another big compliment from me. I am shocked this Pauline novel is relatively unknown. Hopefully, this Sundial’s shadow-pointing book will bring it into a greater readership than just we tiny coterie of readers today reading it while, hopefully, following this humble real-time review of it! This chapter’s two characters are ‘stoical’ in more than just one sense. Victoria’s view of God and her ‘Ingrid Bergman’s Gaslight’-type suspicions, in particular. “…she was too insignificant for tragedy.” (4 Oct 12 – 10.40 am bst)

“What are we here for, then?”
In many ways, this is not only Rachel’s question as to the apparent mollycoddling of Victoria but a strangely predicted (by me) question to what I have called ‘we coterie of readers’…my answer being the fine November-burnished prose and the feeling towards some fictional elusive  Noumenon – some Pauline ‘Road to Damascus’ or some meeting with the equally elusive, excuse-giving Constantine. In this chapter, a ‘report’ on Victoria is required from Rachel, serendipitously to resonate with the book’s erstwhile go-betweens and blind agents. Meanwhile, this remains my tentative report to you. (4 Oct 12 – 1.35 pm bst)

“…secret intention not to know.”
…to match my own. The longer I am chasing the Noumenon the longer I know it is a Noumenon. I predicted earlier that the country house in this book is at least a vague forerunner of the HOUSE of Leaves, and this is borne out by this chapter’s growing sense of supernatural horror as a reality somewhere between sleep-walking and (amazingly as powered by the ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’) a form of what have I described in ‘The Last Balcony’ book as “candle dreaming” (here crystallised by, inter alia, a sort of draughty duel between flammable curtain and conscious candle flame) – as Rachel encounters her own archetypal Heroine’s Gothic Horror trip along the confusing passageways of a potentially growing sense of this book’s HOUSE of Leaves (its characters as well as a place or ‘genius loci’). All tending to help tantalise my own pursuit of the elusive ghost of literature. (4 Oct 12 – 3.20 pm bst)

“Ah, Dr. Con did tell me the other day that he fancied you were a rather literal-minded person. You know — the teeniest bit fussy about sticking to facts. Whereas of course it isn’t that sort of thing which matters at all, about truth-telling, but to get to the spirit of the thing.” 
Thus speaks one of the House’s occupants to Rachel about the House’s past events, an occupant who seems implicated at least by half-truths of bus or car journey….as she and Rachel search the archetypal ghostly attic and find therein the archetypal face-mask once worn for frivolity amid tragedy. “…frivolity, or a moral barbarity.” And the brother and sister in the book’s first chapter talking by the fitful firelight (cf: the previous chapter’s candlelight) now seem shadow-pointers about to become prime movers in the new audit trails of this still evolving plot and its resolution of a whodunit mystery or, more pretentiously, of an elusive Noumenon. A recurrently “smothering” sort of chapter. “I’m sure I never had any intention of making a mystery of it.” But who’s really saying that? The head-lease author? One of us readers? Or, as we are led to believe, one of the characters? (4 Oct 12 – 6.45 pm bst)

“But, on pushing open the door, she discovered two little people sitting  before the fire.”
…in a similar way as we first met this (seemingly ageless) brother and sister by means of the first chapter’s fitful emergence in firelight … now on past’s territory in the book’s House, recast, as it were, by their own point of view of Rachel merged with her point of view of them (later tinged with Rachel’s point of view of Victoria’s point of view of them!), giving the impression of distractedness  and a paradox of both naïveté and maturity – and a feel of characters from a Robert Aickman story going in and out of a wooden house to predict weather…. (5 Oct 12 – 1.40 pm bst)



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