family has its secrets. The mysterious death of her great aunt led Heather
Spears to the Scottish village of Kirkfieldbank and its reputedly haunted
house, Annville. In The Flourish she brings the nineteenth century
town to life: its atmosphere: its people and their language, its gripping
history – with authenticity and sometimes shocking realism. Charlotte
Spears arrives from Glasgow to mind her Uncle’s house and teach music.
As a single, independent woman, she comes under criticism and finds her
private life scrutinized. When her cousin falls ill and returns to Annville
to be nursed, Charlotte is forced into a choice between duty and desire,
with fatal consequences.
The Flourish has been likened to Capote’s In Cold Blood, with its crime-tabloid energy and unspecified, floating sexual tension attaching itself, dangerously, and pervasively, to senseless murder. A more likely precursor is Henry James' Turn of the Screw with its fusion of the gothic and the nascent psychoanalytic, linking dark sexual undertones and unspecified menace. The primness and reserve of the society is so extreme it is almost pathological. Yet Spears conveys how vivid was the sense of temptation (and sex) everywhere.
its page-turning potency, The Flourish has richness and intelligence
as a work of art, - for example in Spears’ treatment of the deterioration
of Charlotte’s younger cousin Willy, whose failing health feeds much of
the anxiety and foreboding that drive the narrative. Although providing
some information about the probable cause of his decline, Spears lets
us see Willy’s malady as an immense, sinister mystery, as it was to people
then, and how they looked to the church for meaning and reassurance in
the face of nameless dread. While these and other themes play out there
is a resonant, unstoppable drive towards the horror of the murder itself.
It is gripping and fateful; we see it coming, we can’t look away.
"Unforgettable! It held me in a velvet vice so that I
could not rest until I reached its tragic climax."
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