Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Jewel of Seven Stars

I can't believe it's taken me two weeks to read The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker. I know I've been rather busy with something else, but even so... Anyway, it's finished at last and I'm wondering how on earth to review it as it was rather a complicated tale... not as regards plot, just the way it was written.

The story concerns a young lawyer, Malcolm Ross, who is called to the Trelawney household in London, late one night. A girl he met at a picnic, Margaret Trelawney, and felt an instant attraction to, has called upon him for help. Her father was attacked in his bedroom, late one night, by someone or something and has lapsed into a coma. A bedside vigil ensues, during which the carers are almost overcome by what they think is fumes from a mummy, Mr. Trelawney being a keen Egyptologist and having a houseful of artifacts, the weirdest of which are in his bedroom. Eventually, after four days, Trelawney comes round and there's a long tale to be told concerning a Queen Tera who made certain plans to resurrect herself, centuries in the future. The group, including Malcolm, Margaret, a doctor friend and an Egyptologist friend of Trelawney's make plans themselves and remove to Cornwall to carry them out.

The first thing I would say is that this is not an easy read. I thought it was just me but when I went back and read the introduction I found that when the book was published it got mixed reactions and many people thought it was over complicated and, apparently, subversive in that it questions religion. The plot itself is fun; Egyptian jiggery-pokery is always a bit exciting, what with the discovery of tombs in the desert and curses and whatnot. And I did like the sections where adventures finding artifacts were retold. In that respect it was a typical Edwardian tale of the supernatural with stories within stories and a lot of explanation, much like a couple of Sherlock Holmes novels I've read. The romantic aspect was also quite nice. Malcolm is so devoted to Margaret, come what may, and that's nice to read in a book written by a male author.

All that said, I found this book hard going. Stoker's writing is very dense and he goes off on tangents that I didn't really notice in Dracula. Sometimes twenty pages in one sitting was more than enough! His writing could hardly be called 'crisp and to the point' like say, Conan Doyle's. I certainly didn't dislike the book or I would never have finished it, but it was hard work. I'll read more Bram Stoker, but not for a while I suspect.

My second book for J.Kaye's Support your local library challenge.


BooksPlease said...

How interesting! Even though this sounds like a difficult book to read the story appeals to me. But I'm not sure that I actually want to read a book that goes off at tangents at such length for a while yet. Hugo's Les Miserables does that and that took me months to read. I'm going to see if the library has a copy if only to have a look at it.

Jo said...

Sounds intereting. Somehow I'd never considered that Bram Stoker might have written anything other than dracula. I might try it.

Jeane said...

I didn't know he wrote anything other than Dracula, either. The first thought I had seeing your review was how beautiful the cover is- it reminds me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, only darker.

Nymeth said...

It's too bad about the dense writing. It sounds like suck a great story. I think I'll give it a try at some point, but I'll make sure I pick the right moment.

Cath said...

Margaret: I think, despite the slightly rambling style, that it's a worthwhile read. There's a good story there, if a somewhat strange ending - and I do love these Edwardian supernatural tales. The library sounds like an ideal choice for reading it.

Jo: Bram Stoker wrote quite a handful of other books. The Lair of the White Worm is another that springs to mind, and The Mystery of the Sea. I suspect there may be others too.

Jeane: The cover is wonderful isn't it? Penguin have reissued a whole bunch of these supernatural stories with similar covers. I think it was Nymeth that had another one the other day, but I forget the book now.

Nymeth: It's worth reading. Good idea to pick your moment - I find if I'm prepared for a not so easy read and pick the right time, it's usually fine. I would also add that I would have got through it much quicker if I wasn't so busy.