Nothing is as it seems in internationally bestselling author Phillips’ third novel. Set in Victorian England, this tale of the disintegration of a family that could be haunted by a malevolent spirit is told from four points of view: the fragile and potentially hysterical mother, whose obsessive love for her daughter becomes a tormenting, suspicious fear of her husband; a medium who attempts to console and assist the mother and sets off an horrible chain of events; the father, a man of science and reason whose stolid view of the world cannot overcome the tumultuous emotions unleashed in his home; and lastly by the title character herself, the daughter, over whom her parents wage an eerie and ultimately tragic battle.
The period is brought cunningly to life via the perceptions that each of these characters has about the events unfolding around them and the possibility that a sexually manipulative spirit has infiltrated the household. Despite its outward premise, the novel is less Victorian gothic than a psychological meditation on the ways in which the characters misunderstand and emotionally constrict each other, as well as the falsehoods they construct around their circumstances in order to find meaning. Of all the voices, the most brief yet most interesting is that of the medium—a stoic, capable woman fallen down in the world, whose alleged supernatural gifts are most often peddled for profit, and who sees in the crumbling family an opportunity.
Fans of depictions of the inner Victorian world will enjoy this intricate, literary novel of mystery and deception.