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The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill

The Mist in the Mirror (original 1992; edition 1999)

by Susan Hill

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2991737,504 (3.26)28
Title:The Mist in the Mirror
Authors:Susan Hill
Info:Vintage Books (1999), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:supernatural, ghost story, England

Work details

The Mist in the Mirror: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (1992)

  1. 00
    The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill (sardav64)
    sardav64: A short eery novella that is perfect for long cold autumn and winter evenings

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This follows on from Hill's Woman In Black, another ghost story in a similar mode. James Monmouth, inveterate traveler, returns to England after a lifetime abroad, intent on researching the life of one Conrad Vane, whose travels inspired his own. Almost immediately upon his arrival in London the spookiness commences, with a mysterious ragged boy popping up in odd corners. As he begins his investigations, he receives warnings and dark hints and strong suggestions not to bother. Unfortunately all those warnings are a bit short on details, and when Monmouth discovers a connection to his own forgotten childhood, he finds himself almost compelled to seek out the truth.

Well, yes, it's great in many ways. Highly readable, richly textured with details of Victorian life, strong on atmosphere and character. Bits of it ooze menace and unease, and the whole thing, with its hints of childhood innocence corrupted, is rather strongly suggestive of The Turn Of The Screw. It operates almost as an anti-detective story, where nobody will tell the poor narrator what the hell is going on, every bit as frustrating to the reader as it is to poor James Monmouth. No less than two possibly senile, or maybe just ancient and befuddled characters notably fail to tell him anything informative, but at least they have that excuse. Those of sound mind who drop dark hints and vague suggestions are just downright irresponsible, not letting the poor chap have any idea what he's in for. By the time he gets to North Yorkshire, it's in danger if slipping into self-parody, as people go pale or get upset or mutter darkly every time he so much as looks at them.

An explanation, satisfying but perfunctory, comes at the end, but one wonders if Hill was reluctant to disturb the shape and tone of her elegantly crafted, highly atmospheric, beautifully structured Victorian ghost story with the potentially vastly more gothic melodrama hinted at in the past. This isn't a horror story. This is a ghost story. Which is almost a pity. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
An unnamed narrator gets talking to Sir James Monmouth, a passing acquaintance, at his London club. They share a cab home, and Sir James requests whether the narrator would be so kind to read his story; he agrees, and, when passed the manuscript a few days later at his club, spends all night reading it, captivated.

Styled as a frame narrative, the majority of this short novel is told by Sir James Monmouth, looking back on his life, until the final pages are given over again to the narrator. As with several others of Susan Hill's books, the story is big on atmosphere, but very thin on plot: there are so many loose ends here, opportunities that are left unexplored and unexplained (the titular mist in the mirror being one), that it ultimately leaves the reader with an immense feeling of dissatisfaction and anti-climax. ( )
1 vote passion4reading | Mar 1, 2015 |
Title - The Mist In The Mirror

Author - Susan Hill

Summary -

One night a young man, having supper in his private club and carrying on with his friends of the existence of a ghost on the club's grounds is asked by one of the elder statesmen the following question:

"Believe? Oh as to that..." I made a dismissive gesture. The topic was not one I wanted to raise again, in the late, silent street.
I have...a story. It is in my possession...which perhaps you might care to read..."

The young man is given a package which tells the tale of the elder club member, Sir James Monmouth, a young orphan, who has explored all around the globe, following in the footsteps of his idol; Conrad Vane. His final destination being London as he seeks further knowledge into the life of Conrad Vane. It is Monmouth's desire to write a book about his idol. But instead he is greeted with warnings and dire predictions by those he meets and questions about Vane.

"...Then Dancer said, his voice almost a whisper. "Whoever touches, explores, follows after Vane, will be run mad, and will never afterward rest his head or enjoy his peace or have a home. He will be haunted. He will be cursed. I saw what lay ahead, Monmouth, I drew back..."

Monmouth is not deterred. Despite the warnings. Despite the history of those who have followed Vane and perished. Despite the ghostly figure of a small child that he spies everywhere he goes. Monmouth goes on. His investigation eventually brings him to Kittiscar and a mystery he had no knowledge of.
In Kittiscar Hall is the last known surviving member of a family. The family of Monmouth. The family James Monmouth was orphaned from. Before he can question her, she passes away, leaving the Hall and all the family riches to James. But she leaves him with something else.

"...She continued to stare at me but now a look of almost horror crossed her features when she spoke, her voice a whisper.
"You surely are not planning to live here at Kittiscar?"
"Why certainly I am! I have no other home. I am the heir to the house, am I not?"
"But you cannot...surely you will not."
"Why do you say so?"
"Because...because you are a Monmouth and a man..."

It is here in Kittiscar Hall that James Monmouth must come face to face with the true nature of Conrad Vane, with the legacy of the Monmouth family and the clouded features that in the mist in the mirror.

Review -

Gothic Horror. Ghost Story. Things that go bump in the night.
This is the real thing.
Susan Hill writes fog heavy, English countryside, atmospheric tension, old time Saturday morning, black and white horror like you grew up with. Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee could literally step off these pages.
Like her novel, The Woman In Black; not the slow moving Daniel Radcliff movie, but the book itself; The Mist in the Mirror, moves steadily, building tension and fear as it slowly unravels the mystery behind the legacy that James Monmouth has unwittingly inherited.
This novel is what true horror novels were before the need to splash buckets of blood on every page became the standard.
A really good read. ( )
  agarcia85257 | Jul 10, 2014 |
I very much like Susan Hill's gothic ghost stories, but this one was a serious disappointment. We never really find out just what the issue was between Conrad Vane and the men of the Monmouth family. We never find out exactly how the young boy died (but there's a sense that it was at boarding school, so how does that tie in with the old chapel and burial vault?). Who is old Mr. Quincebridge (who appears out nowhere in the library and then disappears from the story, and who seems to have no interaction with the Quincebridge family, so that one wonders whether he's a figment of Monmouth's imagination)?

Way too many loose ends -- the ones I've mentioned are just some of the more obvious -- which leads to a very unsatisfactory ending. ( )
1 vote CurrerBell | Jun 23, 2014 |
The ending is disappointing almost anti-climatic. The author draws in the reader but disappoints in the end. The ending is confusing I wasn't sure if the main character was a psychopath or possessed or haunted or cursed or if the mirror was a portal to hell. ( )
  AmberEgan | May 21, 2014 |
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London, and the library of my Club, towards the end of an afternoon in late November, that bleak, dispiriting time of year when the golden Indian summer days that lingered on through October seem long gone, and it is yet too early to feel the approaching cheer of Christmas.  (Preface to Sir James Monmouth's manuscript)
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Haiku summary
Sir James describes the
Mystery surrounding him,
But questions remain.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0701187867, Hardcover)

An inveterate traveller, Sir James Monmouth has spent most of his life abroad. He arrives in England on a dark and rainy night with the intention of discovering more, not only about himself, but his obsession with Conrad Vane, an explorer. Warned against following his trail, Sir James experiences some extraordinary happenings — who is the mysterious, sad little boy, and the old woman behind the curtain? And why is it that he only hears the chilling scream and the desperate sobbing?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An inveterate traveller, Sir James Monmouth has spent most of his life abroad. He arrives in England on a dark and rainy night with the intention of discovering more, not only about himself but his obsession with Conrad Vane, an explorer. Warned against following his trail, Sir James experiences some extraordinary happenings.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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