My favourite ghost-buster is back…well, back in late 2013, but only now was I able to read it.
I read more than most people, typically from fifty to a hundred books a year, and it is unfortunate that there are enough absolutely first-class books around that I'm not going to have time to finish them all. I won't even get close. Shame on me. That’s why I sometimes feel guilty to spend some time with books that at first seem to be entirely frivolous. This impression is just that. An impression, a feeling. Fortunately the Merrily Watkins series is more than meets the eye. This makes me feel less guilty…
The Merrily Watkins novels present the failure to achieve an integrated world in terms of attempted transcendental journeys, as though into a better future. In a second category, usually signaled by someone’s arrival at a meticulously described house, the attempted rescue has already failed by the time the tale begins, and within the house will be discovered a ghost, a mummy, perhaps still breathing. One of the best examples of this category in this novel is Robin and Betty’s bookshop located on Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh border, which is the primary setting for the action, and as always, Rickman was able to wonderfully capture the local folklore. The anotherness of Hay is discussed intelligently throughout, and plays an important part in the story. In this respect the book works well.
Because of having fewer characters than usual (Lol and Jane are absent, Gomer Parry shows up only occasionally), Rickman has to compensate by giving Franny Bliss more action time. In consequence I’d have expected Merrily to be a more fully-rounded character, but she’s just the opposite. The problem lies with Merrily’s stream-of-consciousness narrative (or lack of it). Rickman has some problems when attempting to use stream-of-consciousness, particularly regarding Merrily’s inner voice: Is she talking or thinking? Who is talking? Can anyone in this book say what they mean, or are they doomed to refer en passant to something we may discover later on?
José Saramago was the master when it came to successfully using stream-of-consciousness. He was able to use long sentences and eschewing quotation marks to enhance the seamlessness of his prose, allowing the stream-of-consciousness to run free of interruption. Rickman’s command of language is not so finely honed. His use of this literary device seems confusing at times.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, I always come back for more. Why is that? Is it the yearning for a cup of cider, the sight of a magnificent ancient tree, the atmosphere of a country church, or just the exhilaration of discovering something new in the countryside? It does not matter what life throws at you. I always have a good time when I’m with Ledwardine’s ghost-buster…
NB: The Merrily Watkins series 12th installment .