The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski
Tells the story of a young married woman who lies down on a chaise-longue and wakes to find herself imprisoned in the body of her alter ego ninety years before.
A couple of days ago I went book shopping at one of my favourite bookshops Persephone Books in Bath and I came away with quite a few books. When I saw this book in the shop it really intrigued me so as soon as I got back to the hotel I started reading it and I was hooked.
Melanie is a young wife and recent mother in the 1950’s but sadly she is confined to her bed with TB. She has a rather patronising doctor and an equally patronising husband who both treat her like a small child. Her husband thinks she is silly and even tells her this and because she is petted and spoiled and told she is silly she acts like an over privileged spoiled brat.
Things soon turn rather sinister for Melanie after she dozes off on the chaise-longue. Melanie wakes up in a different room and the only constant is the chaise-longue, even her clothes and body are different but she is Melanie inside, on the outside however she is somebody else who is called Milly and Milly is from the Victorian period.
As the story develops it soon becomes clear that Milly is also a very sick woman but because of the lack of medical knowledge in the Victorian period Milly is not doing as well as Melanie was. It also becomes clear that Milly has a dark secret and something sinister happened in her past.
The trapped Melanie soon realises that this new world she finds herself in is the polar opposite to the one she comes from. Melanie is used to comforts, to being petted and spoiled and never hearing a harsh word. Milly is not used to comforts and is harshly treated and spoken to. Milly’s world is coarse to Melanie’s soft.
I loved the contrasts in this book and how Melanie tries to work out how to escape this body she finds herself in. The book explores themes of mental health, physical health and developments in medical treatments. It also looks at the roles of women in the 1950’s and 1860’s. As the reader I desperately wanted to know more about Milly’s past and find out her story because we get hints of it and some of those hints are rather worrying and scary.
This book is rather creepy and a perfect read for the month of October. I flew through the book and could have happily read it in one sitting if I wasn’t having so much fun on my holiday. I know the not knowing added to the atmosphere of the story but it did leave me frustrated and it is because of this I only give the book 4 out of 5 Dragons. I will definitely be reading more by Marghanita Laski though.
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About the author
Marghanita Laski (1915-1988) was an English journalist, radio panellist and novelist. She also wrote literary biography, plays and short stories, and contributed about 250,000 additions to the Oxford English Dictionary.