The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner
I just joined a new book club in my neighborhood, and this is our book for April. I was delighted to get to read a bit of historical magical realism. This book dips into a genre that I think often doesn’t get enough credit. I’d call this gaslamp fantasy: occult/light fantasy elements set in a Victorian or Edwardian setting. And what’s not to like about that?
And of course, if the protagonist, wants to buck societal expectations and carve out her own place in the world, be it as a scientist or a medium, I’m definitely on board. This book didn’t disappoint, with its dark and moody worldbuilding and a protagonist I could get behind.
If you are a fan of historical fiction from this era, then you know that it was fashionable to attend séances. Folks spent a lot of money trying to reconnect with dead loved ones and this book dives into the dark underbelly of that industry. It’s a classic tale of genuine talents and human compassion meets greed. There are elements of guilt, shame, regret and just enough tension and suspense to keep your reading. My only slight complaint is that the pacing was a little slow for me. But honestly, I might have read this on a different day and felt the pacing was just fine. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for some in-your-face kind of action, and this book is much more refined and nuanced.
For the many twists and turns, the sultry prose and vintage ambiance, and a cast of female characters battling the patriarchy in their own way, this book gets a solid 4.5 stars from me
At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.
Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. With shared determination, the women find companionship that perhaps borders on something more. And as they team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…