Haunting Violet, by Alyxandra Harvey
Violet Willoughby has grown up surrounded by lies. Entangled in her mother’s sham seances, Violet has spent her life helping convince the wealthy and powerful that they can contact the dead. She and the rest of her make-shift family have scrambled up from the poorest districts in London to a place of semi-respectable celebrity. They may not have truly respectable relations, or quite enough of a fortune, but Violet’s family has finally put themselves in a place where they can secure their futures, and Violet a society marriage.
But Haunting Violet is not a simple story of a young girl who finds love and riches. Violet’s future, so nearly within reach, takes a severe blow when suspicions about her mother’s talents begin to surface, and, suddenly, the one thing she thought she knew, that there were no ghosts, becomes another thing on a long list of surprises that put her comfortable future, and sometimes her life, in terrible danger.
Suddenly, you see, Violet can see ghosts. Loads of ghosts. Dancing, singing, and thrilled to have someone to communicate with, these ghosts need Violet, whether she would rather live her own life or not. One ghost in particular demands Violet’s attention, the ghost of a drowned girl, silenced by her death, sends Violet on the search for the truth and a murderer, a task so dangerous that Violet’s friends and family may fall under threat as well.
Harvey has done a fantastic job with the atmosphere of the book. The ghosts alternate between terrifying, hilarious, and intensely frustrating, and Violet’s sense of humour and sharp observations make for laugh out loud moments.
I felt sure there was a compliment in there somewhere. I couldn’t say why it made me want to do something shocking, like slide down the banisters or take off my shoes and itchy stockings and frolic in the fountain under the stone rabbits. I might be the one wearing the stifling corset, but Xavier would be the one to swoon if I did any such thing.
Alyxandra Harvey has created a character that is immediately fascinating and written a story that draws the reader in from the very first page. Haunting Violet is great fun to read; Violet and her friends are fearless researchers and lovely company, and the humour and atmosphere of the novel shine. This is a book that will demand to be read, devoured in one sitting even, and then read again, just to visit the best bits for a second time.