Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: Haunting Violet
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Walker
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Pages: 344 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Violet doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her.

After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?


Raised from a young age by a mother aiming for the stars and a father she knows nothing about, Violet is used to going along with her mother's schemes, like her claims to be a Spiritualist when she is nothing but a fake assisted by Violet and Colin, an orphan boy they took in. Being part of her mother's scheme has made Violet a skeptic, but then Violet starts seeing ghosts for real. One in particular, a girl named Rowena who mysteriously drowned the year before, keeps appearing to Violet and it's obvious her death was no accident. Violet will have to solve this murder to keep the same fate from befalling Rowena's sister Tabitha--or worse, Violet herself.

Violet's struggle with her mother, finding herself when she has to be surrounded by the lies her mother tells, and her developing gift felt so real to me and I came to care for her as if she were a real person. Sure, the novel is fairly low-stakes and there isn't much urgency in the threat posed to her, but Violet is such an interesting character that it doesn't matter. You care so much about how it's going to turn out after her gift turns up and her mother's fraud is revealed and her own gift is shoved into the spotlight that it drives the novel just as well as any urgent threat would.

None of the details jumped out at me as blatantly anachronistic, so that's always a good thing. The way the text would scratch at how confined young women were at the time in what they could do made me smile, but I wish those little moments could have been better expanded on. The Victorian Spiritualism fad isn't a subject I've had much interest in before, but being able to look behind the curtain and see how Violet, Colin, and Violet's mother pull their illusion together has changed that. I'll have to look for more information about how the tricks were pulled off. I know such manipulations are horrible, but I find them almost respectable. Manipulation doesn't happen very easily.

The only problem I had with Haunting Violet was that Violet's prim-and-proper-Victorian-girl voice sometimes got too dry and it made reading the novel feel less entertaining and more like a chore. These moments were only occasional, thank goodness. For most of the book, Violet's voice was clear and almost wry at times as she described the social confinements of women at the time and all the work that went into making a fake seance appear real.

Thanks to its well-researched Victorian details, the behind-the-scenes sort of look at the fraudulent Spiritualists of the time, and the way it pokes at how wrongly women were treated at the time, among many, many other details I don't care to list off after talking about them above, Haunting Violet receives a special honor. When I go to college next fall, I'll be taking my entire library of 300+ physical books with me, but most of them will be ebooks. Only the best of the best will go with me as physical books instead of ebooks and Haunting Violet has earned its place in those ranks.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Ash by Malinda Lo

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely adored this book, so I'm a bit protective of it. I'm glad you enjoyed it that much, that you'll be bringing it along with you to college. :) I'd love to re-read this one someday!


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