Monday, April 02, 2012

The Revenants – review

Author: Geoffrey Farrington

First Published: 1983

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A family curse reaches through time to damn a young man in Victorian England. John LePerrowne is possessed with supernatural life and power, yet haunted by the restless ghost of his human soul. Amidst chilling evils he must seek and finally confront the dark truth of his being.

The Revenants is a tale both strikingly modern and seductively traditional, this narrative explores the psychology of repression and pays homage to the great works of nineteenth-century terror.

The review: As I started reading the Revenants I was struck by the Gothic feel, as in a 19th Century atmosphere, which Farrington was able to infuse into his prose. Following the misfortunes of John LePerrowne we meet a young man who was brought up in such a way that he never developed any form of social confidence – smothered by his elderly parents. As he grew up he became haunted by a singular dream – a prophetic vision of the curse that was to befall him.

This was to become a revenant, turned by an ancestor who was the figure haunting his dreams. When his condition is described she tells him, “Lamia. Lilim. Incubus and succubus. The Undead. Vampires. Hybrid demons and walking corpses. The names and forms attributed to us by men are numerous…” Of course, if I tell you that he was born in the early 1830s, the sharp eyed will spot the anachronistic use of the word undead – a name that hadn’t been coined in the timescale we are looking at. Later in the book another name for the revenants is offered, which is the Irish Dearg-dul. We hear little in the way of lore, though we discover that they can exert a kind of control over victims, when feeding, and a metal spike through the heart kills one Revenant we meet.

The story itself follows John through the ages and is all in his own words. It is therefore interesting that worldwide events – such as the first and second world wars – are glossed over by a narrator who feels himself removed and aloof, though he is struck by the presentation to him of a white feather from a woman who might have otherwise been his victim.

The climax of the story is, in many respects, self-realisation for the narrator though he (and thus we) does not understand the event that leads to it – a mysterious supernatural happening. The book holds onto a pre-Stoker feel (I got an ever-so-slight echo of Varney the Vampire in the character) but explores the ‘spirit of the age’ for changeless beings that Rice highlighted within her Chronicles. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the book. 7.5 out of 10.

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