A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets from the past that may hold the key to his future in this “sensual, twisting gothic tale…in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights” (BookPage).
All love stories are ghost stories in disguise. “This one happily succeeds at both” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained-glass folly set on the moors, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.
However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.
As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so too does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since a tragic accident three years earlier and the origins of his morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t...things from beyond the grave.
Blurring the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death, The Lost History of Dreams is “a surrealist, haunting tale of suspense where every prediction turns out to be merely a step toward a bigger reveal” (Booklist).
Waldherr's lackluster fiction debut (after a number of nonfiction works, including 2008's Doomed Queens)concerns historian-turned-daguerreotypist Robert Highstead, who wants to carry out the last wishes of a famous poet and cousin that he never knew. In Victorian England three years after losing his wife, Robert must attempt to persuade a stubborn distant relative, Isabelle Lowell, to open the doors to a long-sealed chapel made of glass in order to bury his cousin, the famous poet Hugh de Bonne, beside his wife, Ada. Isabelle is also Hugh's heir. Mrs. Dido, one of Ada's former guardians, claims that Isabelle is not actually Hugh's heir, while a group of Hugh's fans, led by his publisher's wife, Tamsin Douglas, are invasive and pushy, further complicating matters and demanding access to the glass chapel. Meanwhile, Isabelle agrees to allow Robert to complete his task of burying Hugh in the chapel if he writes a book about Ada based on a story Isabelle tells him over the course of five nights. All the back-and-forth in the story comes across as rather flat Robert is fascinated by Hugh and Ada's love story, as well as who Isabelle may or may not be, but Waldherr can't quite land it. Fans of Victorian mysteries should look elsewhere for their fix.