"Recalled to Life" is the second book by Grant Allen I have read; the first was non-fiction (you can find the review and something about the author here, if you are interested).
"Recalled to Life" was first published in 1891, eight years before Allen's death. It is, I think, a rather unusual book for its times. First of all, it is written from a woman's perspective, by a male author - and he has done a rather good job, in my opinion (with the occasional annoying "after all, I am only a woman" coming from the heroine - but maybe in those days women really felt like that and relied more on the men in their lives to solve problems, conduct businesses and so on). Secondly, the heroine is determined to go against what society in general and her relatives in particular expect and advise her to do; she follows her own lead. Thirdly, the language appears much more modern than what you'd think you would find in a book from 1891. Comparing it to This Freedom, which was written in 1922, I would not instantly be able to tell which is younger.
Now to the story: At the age of 18, Una Callingham suffers complete amnesia when she witnesses the murder of her father. Like a baby, she has to re-learn how to speak, think, read and write. Four years later, she is in possession of all her mental faculties again, but still can not remember anything from her life before the murder. People she knew back then are strangers to her, and no matter how often the police have spoken to her, trying to trigger her memory into finding anything that could be a clue to the murderer's identity, she is only left very distressed and frustrated every time.
Of course, this wouldn't be much of a story if things were not about to change. A new inspector turns up to talk to Una, handing her a bundle of paper clippings about the event, with photographs and all. Until now, her aunt had been so protective of her that she was never allowed to read what the papers wrote about her and the murder of her father. Now that she comes face to face with some of the facts that had been kept from her, she is determined to take things into her own hands and solve the mystery, knowing that she will never be able to lead a happy, self-determined life if she does not get rid of the mystery overshadowing her entire past.
By now, Una is 22 and can legally do as she pleases. There is enough money for her to travel and stay comfortably, and she sets out on her quest all optimistic and hopeful. The clues she keeps finding - both in her own memory and by talking to people who knew her and her father before - lead her as far away from England as Canada.
It is there that the circumstances of the murder and the true identity of the murderer are revealed. Some of it ranges from the surprising to the improbable, but it is all well written and kept me in suspense until (nearly) the end.
If you look for a good old-fashioned mystery (that is actually not so old-fashioned in some respects) and like free ebooks, I can recommend this one from the kindle shop.
This sounds really rather interesting and I've grabbed it for my kindle...Mysteries were not that common in the late 1800s...ReplyDelete
Hope you'll like it, Kristi. It's also rather short, not too much unnecessary detail (which can be very atmospheric but also distract from a plot and make it tiring to read, depending on the author's skill).Delete
It sounded really interesting, found it on Amazon and it was free for Kindle.ReplyDelete
That's how I got it :-)Delete
Another tip I couldn't resist. (When am I ever going to find the time to read all the books I've already downloaded?)ReplyDelete
When I received my kindle for my birthday in 2012, I downloaded nearly 80 books in the first few weeks - I have not even read half of them by now, and still add the occasional download to the number!Delete
It does sound intriguing -- although i don't know if such amnesia can truly occur simply from witnessing a crime.ReplyDelete
I don't know, either, but I think it is possible to suffer amnesia after a very big shock or trauma.Delete
I wish that I could speed read like my brother. He speed reads and takes it all in at the same time.ReplyDelete
I am a relatively fast reader but sometimes slow myself down deliberately so as to enjoy the book more, and get a clearer impression of the style and language.Delete
Oh, this sounds interesting and unusual - specially if it is free. I have to finish reading the books I have already got though.. I don't like the feeling of having "too much" if you know what I mean.But I do like an old fashioned mystery!ReplyDelete
When it comes to books, I don't want too much of them, either - if it's library books and I have to return them. But on my kindle, they can sit as long as they want (or as long as it takes me to get round to them). It is actually a good feeling to know I will not run out of reading material anytime soon!Delete
From Grant Allen, you'll also like "Miss Cayley's Adventures", a mixture of detective story, around the world adventures and romance, quite funny at times. "Hilda Wade, A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose", is darker in tone, but still gripping. Both are available free as ebooks. And for other women detective from the same period, try to hunt down "Loveday Brooke", by C.L. Pirkis (not readily available), "Hagar of the Pawn-Shop", by Fergus Hume (free ebook), "Dorcas Dene, Detective", by George R. Sims (pb reprint from The British Library), and "The Complete Adventures of Judith Lee", by Richard Marsh (edited by yrs truly, available as ebook).ReplyDelete
Dear Jean-Daniel Brèque, thank you very much for this very interesting-sounding list of books! I am certainly going to look for them.Delete