REVIEW: “Nothing But Ghosts” by Beth Kephart
CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge
Finished 6 Jan 2010
I admit, I chose to read this book first for the Kephart challenge in the hopes of finding a ghost story waiting between its pages; there’s nothing I enjoy better than curling up with a good supernatural mystery. Disappointingly, I found no actual ghosts in the novel, but what I did find was enough to keep me reading.
Katie’s mother recently passed away of cancer, and both she and her father are still raw from the loss. Dad spends his time locked away with the paintings he restores for his clients, while Katie throws herself into her work at the house of Miss Martine, a mysterious recluse who has not been seen in decades. It is here that Katie, still searching for the meaning behind her mother’s abrupt ‘disappearing’ from her life, begins the journey towards healing as she attempts to unravel the mystery of Miss Martine’s own ‘disappearance’ and the secrets that lurk buried in the garden of the old house.
This is a lovely book, wonderfully written; I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative would seem to skip from one topic to another, marrying images and words which at first seemed like an odd fit, only to have the meanings blossom into fruition as one read on. The characters, too, were well drawn – my particular favourite was the stunning and incongruous librarian, whose glamorous clothes make her seem out of place amongst shelves of dusty books and whose secrets add further layers to the intricate storyline.
All of that aside, however, there was something about this book which kept me at a distance. I enjoyed it; I thought the imagery was beautiful and the plot intriguing; but somehow, it seemed ultimately insubstantial. I think perhaps it was the present tense which disoriented me a little. I confess that I am somewhat prejudiced against the present tense in longer works, and in this case it felt like there was no anchor for the prose and no weight to the setting, in spite of Kephart’s obvious way with words. A shame, and perhaps not the best first impression, but not enough to spoil the book for me. Definitely recommended.