A Reunion of Ghosts
By Judith Claire Mitchell
Published by 4th Estate
Available in hardback, ebook and audio
Paperback is forthcoming
I'm a sucker for stories within stories, where echoes of the past bleed into the present, and historical events (both true and untrue) are woven into the plot. This is why I enjoyed Judith Claire Mitchell's novel, A Reunion of Ghosts.
A Reunion of Ghosts tells the story, told in a suicide note, of several generations of the Alter family throughout the 20th
century. Three sisters, Delph, Lady and Vee have made a pact - they want to commit suicide before millennium night. They have been unlucky in love, have poor health, introverted, and detached from society. The sisters blame the actions of the previous generations for their misfortune.
This is a funny and interesting novel and drew me into the lives of the Alter sisters and their family history. I couldn't help but laugh at the jokes about cancer, and suicide - which is openly discussed by the sisters. It seems to be the most popular option for many members of their family - the sisters even have a diagram showing the different methods used within their family.
A Reunion of Ghosts reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides's Virgin Suicides with the way it uses first person plural and so the reader never knows which sister is speaking - all of the sisters it seems start to merge into one. You can also see the influence of Eugenides's other novel, Middlesex too with the way generations of families seem to influence the present. And if you like the dysfunctional family from The Royal Tenenbaums then you'll love this.
The sisters are consumed by the past deeds of the family. And you can see why - this is a complicated family. Sorrows and stumbles alongside accomplishments - suicides, run aways, cancer, widows alongside love and death. The sisters believe the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children of the third and fourth generations. Their great-grandfather, Lenz Alter, a scientist in Germany, becomes involved in creating gas used in the gas chambers. This single event is a long chain of events which the sisters believe are cursing them. They must break this curse.
A Reunion of Ghosts is full of rich details, scars of the past, and funny moments. This is a rich portrait of a family who are not perfect, and full of dysfunctional family members.
You can buy A Reunion of Ghosts from your favourite bookshop.
I was kindly sent a copy from the publisher.