Lost by Gregory Maguire

I don’t want to say too much about this book since my comrades will be reading it, so I will put the rather vague review I wrote on Goodreads with the addition of the synopsis from the back of the book.

Winifred Rudge, a writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to jump-start her new novel about a woman who is being haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her step-cousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his home. Is the spirit Winnie’s great-great-grandfather, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens’s childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge? Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper? Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin? Winnie begins to investigate and finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades—some from her family’s peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past.

Although I never finished reading Maguire’s iconic Wicked, I saw this book while out book shopping with a friend and decided to pick it up. I have to admit, I’m glad I did, because I managed to finish the book.

Admittedly, there were some parts that were difficult to follow, which I put down to the author’s bizarre writing style. There were parts where the text was different, which took me a bit to figure out why it was done like that. It’s not often that you read a book featuring a main character who is writing a book. And of course he allows her to follow the clichéd recommendation of writing what you know.

I should warn any of you who may be interested in a story featuring the ghost of Jack the Ripper: it’s only a very minor pseudo-plot. I bought the book mainly because there was a mention of ghosts and it was set in England, but I would be lying if I said the fact that a potential ghost of Jack the Ripper didn’t appeal as well. Buy it because you like paranormal fiction, not because Jack the Ripper is mentioned in the synopsis on the back of the book like I did.


Christmas and Ghost Stories

To most people, Halloween is the paranormal holiday of the season – ghosts and goblins running amuck. It is the day of the year when we honour the dead and remember those who have gone before us. However, we must not overlook the paranormal that abounds just a few months later at Christmas time.

We all know the quintessential Christmas story A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens and would probably cite that novella as the only representation of ghosts and Christmas; however, he did write a few other ghostly tales centred around Christmas. Dickens’ main aim in writing A Christmas Carol, though, was to highlight the plight of the poor during the Victorian era in which he lived.

Then there is the often overlooked line from a popular Christmas carol:

There’ll be scary ghost stories and
Tales of the glories of Christmases
Long, long ago.

Recognise the lyrics? If you’re trying to place the title, but it escapes you, that’s a line from It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So, based on these words, one might say that ghost stories and Christmas have gone hand-in-hand for a long time. An understandable assumption since before there was the internet, television, or anything else we use to provide entertainment these days, telling stories around a fire was the main attraction. Christmas is always near the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year, so what better story to tell on a dark and (snow) stormy night than a ghost story?

Family who have passed on might choose to “visit” during the Christmas season (though most often it seems to happen on Christmas Eve) because it’s normally a time of family gathering and bonding. There also seems to be an increase in angelic encounters, especially when the story features people getting lost in a snow storm.

Jeff Balenger, owner of Ghostvillage, sends out a monthly newsletter and this month he had an interesting paranormal take on Christmas. He talks about the Spirit of Christmas which possesses all of us when we choose to follow in the footsteps of the original Santa Claus, Nicholas of Myra who became St. Nicholas, and be generous of not only our time, but also of our resources. There are physical representations of Santa Claus and as children we believe in his supernatural ability to deliver toys to every child around the entire planet in one night. When we become adults, it changes from a belief in the myth to being a part of the myth.

Moving a bit away from the ghostly realm, we have winter itself personified in Jack Frost. An invisible character, to be sure, yet one capable of leaving his mark behind on anyone brave enough to venture out into the cold wintery air.

So you see, the paranormal is with us all the time, but most especially during the long nights of winter.

May you have a happy and haunted Christmas!! 🙂