Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Lost – review

Author: Jonathon Aycliffe

First Published: 1996

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “British born Michael Feraru, scion of a long line of Romanian aristocrats, leaves his country of birth and his love, to reclaim his heritage – a Draculian castle deep in the heart of Transylvania. He plans to turn his inheritance into an orphanage in the new post-Ceauşescu, post-Communist country. There he enlists the help of a young local lawyer, Liliana Popescu, to search for the missing Feraru millions, and battle the rough the complex maze of old bureaucracy in the scam-rich, newly-born state.

“Feraru describes his journey into the heart of the Romanian countryside, wasted by years of neglect and caught in a time-warp, as though the twentieth century had never reached it. When he eventually arrives at his inheritance, he finds the castle of the Ferarus, in a sunless valley in the Carpathian Mountains, is home to much more than memories…”

The Review: You know, it must be eleven years ago when I bought this book. I bought it as it looked interesting, placed it on a little used book shelf, next to my bed, to await its rightful place in my reading queue and picked it up just yesterday, realising it had been forgotten.

On the surface that, I know, does not bode well. Buy a book and it takes eleven years to read it. However, at this point I owe a huge apology to Jonathon Aycliffe as the eleven year delay was down to me, and my memory, and not his book. I picked it up yesterday and devoured it, in a day, as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Readers of the vampire genre should be warned, however, that this is not your typical tale of the un-dead. This is much more akin to a ghost story and thus is a refreshing read because of it. Vampires are mentioned early on, “perhaps my ancestors were vampires,” jokes Michael and is immediately rebuked by Liliana for making such a suggestion.

As the book progresses we become aware that we are dealing with strigoï, however Aycliffe makes a distinction between these and the superstition of vampires (which are deemed more a Hollywood affectation) and changes my understanding of the strigoï rule. These changes fit in very much with the ghost-story aspect of the novel a kind of merging of the two aspects that makes a whole new sub-stratum.

“What we speak of is not material, at least not in the way your childish vampires are tied to their bodies and live or die with them. The strigoï exist in the spirit, but they are not ghosts. Their bodies remain in the tomb, undecaying, undead, yet not living. One cannot live without the other. They walk, but it is not their bodies that walk.”

We discover the strigoï have a somewhat long arm, Michael’s arrival not only wakes them from a hibernation, if you like, but also stretches their arm to effect those he left in England. There is an aspect surrounding wolves that is to do with the strigoï possessing them and, as such, they become more human than wolf when not possessed. The strigoï feed upon the newly deceased.

The book, as you read it, feels as though it owes a debt to Stoker. Like Dracula it is a epistolary novel and begins with an Englishman (though in this case Michael is a teacher rather than a lawyer) travelling to Romania. This seems less like a lift and more like a reverential nod. There is a touch of Poe to the story, especially to the ending.

I feel a pang of guilt that this book sat, ignored and forgotten, on my bookshelf for so long. I really didn’t put it down once I started reading it. 8.5 out of 10.

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