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Book review – THE GIRL IN THE GLASS, by Jeffrey Ford

Another one taken from the Solaris blog, but I loved this book so much I had to put it up here too.

The Girl In The Glass, by Jeffrey Ford.

Being in publishing, you read all day, and so reading for pleasure becomes a little difficult—you always feel you’re reading to learn more about the industry, or sometimes just can’t read any more. I can’t say how wonderful it was to relax with a book written by an author in full control—so I just kicked back, in safe hands.

The Girl In The Glass is set in the Long Island area of America during the Depression. It is a time where spiritualism is seducing what wealthy people remain. You get an idea of some people refusing to look inwardly in times of desparation—people with more money than sense. Wealth is a powerful thing, and this becomes more apparent later on in the book.

The tale concerns a band of spiritual mediums (in reality, con artists), led by the gentleman’s gentleman, Thomas Schell. He’s the best there is. We follow the narrative of his assistant, a seventeen year-old Mexican immigrant, Diego—who poses as Ondoo, an Indian mystic. I won’t bog you down with plot detail—there are many good reviews via the medium of Google—but essentially we follow a truly unusual cast, and see their involvement in a murder mystery. It’s all because of a seemingly real ghostly vision: the girl in the glass. It becomes the most surprisingly gripping narrative I’ve read all year.

Seemingly simple, filled with historical information (but not, as some authors may do, vomited forth to bury the reader in useless detail just because they researched it), it is a delight to read. It is rich in symbolism, full of charming characters, and took off in a direction I couldn’t see coming at all.

The prose is elegant, clipped, fast; the narrative pace is as perfect as you’ll get. The Girl In the Glass touches on the fringe of fantasy; but I’m not sure where, as a bookseller, you’d put this on the shelf. Is it crime or fantasy? Sometimes I’m not sure if the fantasy elements are more subtle than you think.

So just take it off the shelf and read it instead. And you may as well find out where the rest of Jeffrey Ford’s books are. You’ll want them, too.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.