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The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita…
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The Victorian Chaise-Longue (1953)

by Marghanita Laski

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The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski; Persephone;
(4 1/2*)

I found The Victorian Chaise-Longue to be a horribly disturbing & even terrifying novella.
Our protagonist is ill with TB. She has just given birth & is bed ridden. After several weeks she is allowed by her physician to be carried into an adjoining room and to lay upon the chaise lounge there where she will get sun and be able to watch the birds and have a bit of a change in scenery.
She falls asleep and when she awakens it is to find that she is in a strange room with a strange woman in another time and place. Eventually she comes to realize that this woman is her sister.
I expected that the plot would move from fairly contemporary days to Victorian days in a back & forth flow but this book is not written in such a manner. You will need to be of stouter heart than this reader to read this book and not find your heart beating faster as you turn the pages.
A very well written book, I highly recommend it. I am so glad that I have now read it for I will not be so frightened when I turn to it for a reread. ( )
  rainpebble | Dec 20, 2014 |
Marghanita Laski is an author not much talked about, but who has an enormous talent for writing a gripping novel. Her books vary in their subject, but all keep you turning pages. If you are looking for an emotional thriller, you will find Little Boy Lost will do a fine job of suspense while pulling at your heart. But if psychological thriller is more your bag, try The Victorian Chaise-Longue. And yes America, it is longue and not lounge. It is similar to that Charlotte Perkins Gilman classic The Yellow Wallpaper. A well-kept wife decides to take a nap on the newly obtained antique only to find herself waking in a very different world. At first she tries to believe she is dreaming, but then the terror grows when she realizes she is awake and not in her own body. Will she wake from this nightmare? How will she cope? How will it end? ( )
  ms.hjelliot | Nov 18, 2014 |
Really nice story, not sure if it's really a ghost story though.
Hoped there would be a bit more of an explanation at the end, but I guess that's part of the charm.
( )
  lisa.isselee | Sep 26, 2014 |
I cannot tell you enough how much my family and I enjoyed the PBS series The 1900 House. It's hard not to romanticize the Victorian era, so when a modern London family is given the opportunity to go back in time, and live in a remodeled home according to the customs of the era, they jump at the opportunity. Shoot, I'm sure I would have also, except that as the show went on, one realizes that modern advances in technology, science, and society have made life so much easier now.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue is a wonderful time travel novel that has quite a few horror elements. Melanie is newly married and has just given birth to a child. Due to health issues, she's been confined to bed since her pregnancy in present day (1953, the time the book was published). Upon being moved to another room in the house for a change of pace, she is laid to rest on a Victorian chaise-longue that she purchased at an antique shop. Upon waking from a nap, she soon realizes that she's trapped in another woman's body...in a bygone era. Is she just having a nightmare, or this a form of reincarnation? The scary conclusion left more questions unanswered than anything else.

I loved the way Laski wrote. Her descriptions of everything, right down to the curtain fabric and wallpaper, really painted a lovely picture of two bygone eras. I'm so glad that her work is being reprinted. The introduction by P.D. James also shed some light on Laski's other work outside of writing, including journalism. She sounded like a very interesting woman! ( )
  dreamydress48 | Aug 10, 2014 |
As this book begins, the reader is introduced to Melanie, a 1950′s wife and mother who has been confined to her bed since the birth of her child as she was taken ill with tuberculosis and has consequently been unable to see her child in case the excitement is too much for her weakened constitution. As the novella starts, the doctor decides that Melanie is well enough to spend the afternoon in a different room to give her a change of scenery and she is carried to the Victorian chaise-longue of the title, a peculiarly compelling item of furniture which Melanie purchased in an antique shop whilst shopping in search of a crib for her coming baby. There, she falls asleep, but on waking Melanie finds herself no longer in the 1950′s but back in 1864 and so the nightmare begins.

I thought that Melanie (or Milly as she is known in 1864) was a very interesting character. When the reader sees her in the 1950′s she comes across as docile and rather vacuous, relying on her husband, the nurse and the doctor without any particular opinions or influence of her own, but there is still the feeling that there is something behind her perfect housewife exterior, an intelligence which she keeps hidden for some reason. Ironically, it is only when she is transported back to 1864 that this is revealed: in the modern setting the reader is kept out of Melanie’s head, wheareas all of the Victorian section is shown entirely through her thoughts and reactions. She starts to express her thoughts and try to act only at the time when she is most helpless and she no longer has other people around her to act as props. The nightmare experience of finding herself in an alien time period is the catalyst which forces her to become independent and so in a peculiar way the reader watches her becoming free even as she is trapped.

The most thought provoking aspect of this book is its ambiguity; as I’ve observed, the reader only experiences the time travel through Melanie’s mind and so it is impossible to say what exactly is going on. Is she dreaming? Is she mad? Has she really travelled in time? She retains her modern sensibilities and is aware of herself as Melanie, not Milly, but also has some of Milly’s memories, so who is she really? Has she regressed to a past life? Can she get back or is she trapped? If she dies in the past, what happens to her in the present? The reader is just as confused and disoriented by this sudden, unpredicted change in the direction of the narrative as Melanie is and so is drawn into her panic and horror. ( )
  Ygraine | May 7, 2014 |
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TO JOHN HAYWARD
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"Will you give me your word of honour", said Melanie, "that I am not going to die?"
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And in the instant before she had perceived what she was touching, she was flooded with that same memory that had first sirred in her when she saw the chaise-longue in the shop off Marylebone High Street, only now it was deeper, truer and intolerably painful, a memory of passionate love, of a body that crushed and broke into hers, pressed down on the Victorian chaise-longue.
So that's it, she said, not understanding the memory, only recognising that this thing, this couch on which she lay, was the only object that joined that life and this. There was a pattern: it was not all haphazard. If I could get off it then, she thought, and she dug her elbows into the horsehair-filled seat and lifted the swimming dizzy head.
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