Per Chance to Dream: The Lost History of Dreams Review
This week we’re back with historical fiction is a dark twist!
Kris Waldherr’s The Lost History of Dreams swept me off my feet this past weekend. Ever the mood reader I checked my NeGaley ARCs to see what was coming out soon and this book struck my fancy and I’m so glad I had a chance to read it.
The Lost History of Dreams is set in the mid-Victorian era with all the gloom, dilapidated houses, and mournfulness that one would expect of from a classic Gothic novel. Our protagonist, Robert Highstead lives his life close to death and the dead as a post-mortem photographer after the death of his beloved wife. He also hopefully awaits visits from her ghost and remains a dedicated husband despite the ghostly state of his wife. Suddenly he’s contacted by his family and asked to escort the remains of his late cousin Hugh de Bonne, a Byronesque poet. Robert is require to lay the remains to rest in a glorious glass chapel next to Hugh’s wife, Ada, and photography their heir, and niece, beside the bodies. Begrudging Robert accepts the task sympathizing with Hugh’s last wish to be with his wife. However, Isabelle -the heir - refuses to allow Robert into the chapel, which has remained locked since her aunt’s death. When Robert is injured at the estate, a frustrated Isabelle agrees to strike a bargain with Robert. If he will record Ada’s story and publish it, she will allow him to photograph the bodies. Isabelle is frustrated by her uncle’s fame and her aunt’s anonymity and thus begins the tale of Hugh and Ada’s doomed love.
Bouncing between Isabelle and Robert’s story and Ada and Hugh’s story, the novel takes on a dreamy quality. Moreover, ghosts - both etherial and the legacies of events long ago - are ever present throughout the story as Robert attempts to unravel the mystery of Ada’s death, Hugh’s disappearance at the height if his creativity, the story behind the glass chapel, and Isabelle’s bursts of aggression and tenderness.
I found this story within a story enthralling. While I can’t say I loved any of the characters, like Robert I was fully invested in uncovering the mysteries in this book. There is a slowness to the book that’s to be expected with a Gothic influenced book but I did not mind it in the least and plowed through the book in a matter if days. Isabelle has a Miss Havishham quality about her that made her for intriguing to me. (I think I may be one of the rare people that read the entirety of Great Expectations in my high school English class!)
Although I think the ending and explanations happened a bit quickly for my liking, overall I really enjoyed the mood, setting, and dreamy setting where you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not, who’s telling the truth and who’s not. I would highly recommend this readers who are a fan of Gothic and romantic era classics!