I’ve just finished reading Susan Hill’s The Mist in the Mirror. Although I continued with it to the end, it wasn’t one of those books that grabbed me so much that I resented having to do anything else until I had devoured it. It seemed to me to be the perfect pastiche of the nineteenth-century supernatural novel; the narrator, James Monmouth, a Mr. Lockwood lookalike. I realised that this was the author’s intention and therefore that the novel is a technical success. However, someone once said that pastiche should be better than the original and, as I read, I wasn’t sure that it passed this test.
Two days after completing it, though, I can’t get it out of my mind. It is not the horrific night that James Monmouth spends imprisoned at Kittiscar (the climax of the novel) that haunts me; it is the low-key final chapter that describes how the remaining forty years of his life are wasted, his spirit broken, his nerves jangled, his confidence so wrecked that he dare not marry and have children: a fine description of a curse, indeed, and much more powerful than the spectacular firework display of rot, chaos, physical danger and terror that lesser writers so often deploy for their denouement.