Hi everyone! Happy Monday! I am pleased to be a part of Adam McOmber's White Forest Tour. For my tour stop today, I have a guest post by Adam as well as a giveaway. Be sure to check out my review of this original, imaginative debut novel!
Here is Adam:
The main character of my novel The White Forest came to me one day as I was
walking home from work. I live in Chicago and commute downtown on the el. I was about halfway between the train and my apartment when I was suddenly stopped by the kind of “double vision” I sometimes experience as an author. I could see my surroundings well enough—the crowded city street with cars passing by. But I could also see a wide open overgrown field, of the sort you might find in the old parklands of England. I remember there were purple flowers in the field, and the sky above was crisp and bright, as though it was late summer.
Walking in the field, all alone, was a woman wearing a dark dress from the nineteenth century. It wasn’t a fancy dress, just a serviceable kind of garment. This woman was passing slowly through the tall grass. Her head was down, so I couldn’t see her face. But I could tell something had troubled her. She wasn’t about to lift her head anytime soon to look at the beauty of the surrounding heath. Instead, she was fixated on something deep inside her—a secret that she couldn’t tell anyone.
Beyond knowing that she was troubled, I could also tell that this woman was dangerous. She was possessed by some kind of power, which she wasn’t entirely in control of. Whatever had recently happened to this young woman had made that power begin to boil. She was going to release something into the world that was terrible.
As I said before, this image was the seed from which Jane Silverlake grew. Her story was bound up in that image, and I thought of it often as I was writing. Later, Jane’s friends would come to me. There was Nathan Ashe, the handsome son of Lord William Ashe. He’d recently returned from the Crimean War, and his experiences there had changed him, taking away his cheerful youth and darkening him to the point that he was no longer entirely himself. Then there was Madeline Lee, a fallen socialite, who’d lost all of her well-groomed friends and decided that she would befriend the odd girl who lived in the dark house on the edge of Hampstead Heath. What harm could that do, really? I knew it was Nathan and Maddy that Jane would hurt the most.
It’s my hope that readers of The White Forest will experience something of the strange vision I saw as I was walking home from the train. I hope too that they’ll come to understand that the girl in the field isn’t all bad. She has reasons for everything she does.
Big thank you to Adam for stopping by today!
Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father at a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of manmade objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London's elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation, with the goal of discovering a new virtual reality, a place he calls the Empyrean. A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late. Adam McOmber, whose short story collection This New and Poisonous Air earned glowing praise for its evocative prose, here reveals a gift for fantastical twists and dark turns that literary fans will relish. Hardcover 324 pages. Expected Publication September 11th by Touchstone Publishing.
Three Stars: A unique gothic read that will have you thinking outside of the box.
Jane has led a solitary life since her mother passed away when she was six. She spends her days hiding in the shadows, listening to everything around her. Jane has a unique gift. She has the ability to hear and feel inanimate objects. Everything has its own distinct voice. The house servants are frightened of Jane and accuse her of devilry. Her father is lost in his own grief, he loves her but fails to see her. Jane's world changes with the arrival of Maddie when she is fifteen. Maddie and her family take up residency not far from Jane's manor after Maddie's father is run out of London for his revealing daguerreotypes. Maddie, a girl of privilege, now must entertain herself in the country. Maddie and Jane immediately become fast friends, and soon there is a third party to their group, Nathan, another wealthy boy in the vicinity. The three become inseparable. They spend hours walking on the Heath, talking and sharing secrets. It is a comfortable three sided friendship, unconventional but it works. That is until Jane shares her strange ability with her friends. Nathan is fascinated and insists on experimenting with her talent as Jane can transfer what she sees and hears to another person by touch. What was once a tight friendship falters as Jane's ability causes Maddie distress. Nathan is obsessed with Jane's gift and feelings of jealousy between the girls surfaces. Jane's talent begins to evolve and soon the trio is forever altered with the troubling disappearance of Nathan. Can the girls find Nathan?
What I Liked:
- The White Forest is one of those rare books that burrows into your head and causes you to question how you perceive the known world and reality. It is unexpected in that is provides some amazing and complicated ideas that will astound you and leave you pondering over them for days. Nothing in this book is simple and straightforward. Mr. McOmber presents a complex plot with concepts that are unique and unlike anything I have encountered. If you like deep, challenging reads this one is for you.
- I was fascinated by the new ideas that I found in this book. Jane's amazing talent that allowed her to see and feel all the objects of the world as each material item has a soul. I liked fathoming this original concept. Along with Jane's ability, there are some other thought provoking ideas such as the White Forest, an alternate reality that exists alongside our reality separated by a thin membrane. The White Forest is the antithesis of the known world, it is the nothingness, the opposite of creation. The guardian of this realm is the Lady of the Flowers. She stands in opposite to creation, she is silent, she is nothing. If this seems difficult to comprehend, believe me it is a lot to take in and understand. It is truly mind boggling.
- I admired that Mr. McOmber was able to tell this story through Jane. It is not often that you find a male author writing a female perspective. Sometimes it doesn't always execute well. Needless to say, in The White Forest it is done brilliantly. I never once felt like the the narrative was inaccurate or written by a man. The writing is detailed down to discussions on skirts and dresses. Mr. McOmber is indeed talented!
- I enjoyed that this book presents a friendship between two girls and a boy. It is a complicated arrangement and with relationships between the opposite sexes and three people, it is just a matter of time before conflict arises. What was once a pleasant camaraderie begins to fracture when cracks of jealousy splinter through. Both girls develop affections for Nathan, while he in turn has strong feelings for each girl in return, wavering between them. Now before you get that icky love triangle thought, I assure you this book does not move into that territory. On the surface, the friendship remains in tact and the feelings are an underlying current, never expressed aloud until after Nathan's disappearance. In fact, this book for the most part is without a romance. There are shades of attraction and hints, but nothing solid.
- This book starts with the disappearance of Nathan and the strange circumstances leading up to it. The story follows the girls as they attempt to unravel what happened to him. The mystery is deep and multilayered. Maddie and Jane while trying to find Nathan end up attempting to infiltrate a cult let by a corrupt, egotistical con man named Ariston Day, who is attempting to manipulate dreams and find alternate realities. In addition to the cult and the disappearance, the reader is presented with all the strange abilities that Jane possesses and how they ultimately fit into the overall picture. This is a complex plot!
- I appreciated that everything resolves and ties off neatly at the end as this appears to be a stand alone book. I can't tell you how nice it is to read a book and reach a satisfying ending. Granted, the resolution was head scratching, and I can't say I have a complete grasp on everything, again because this is a complicated book with mind boggling ideas, but at the end I found all the answers.
And The Not So Much:
- This book moves at a steady rhythmic pace. It is not action packed or particularly thrilling, yet it is interesting. Some readers may become frustrated with the deliberate progression and deep ideas. If you go into this expecting a typical Gothic book, be warned this is nothing like you expect.
- Overall, this book is a dark, shadowy read. Jane is a complex character and at her core she is not very like-able. I especially detested the way she treated her maid, Sarah. She is cruel to Sarah and frightens her with her ability. Maddie is selfish and a bit shallow, and Nathan is obsessed, manipulative and easily swayed into a cult. I found myself clutching at any bit of goodness in the characters, hoping I would grow to like them, but alas, they are cold, and I did not relate or care about any of them. The only character I felt a glimmer of feeling toward was Pascal, a young starving artist who loses his lover, Alexander to the cult. It is difficult to fall in love with a book when you don't care about the characters. There were qualities I admired about Jane, but overall I did not feel compassion toward her.
- This book jumps around. It shifts from present day to memories of the past and even incorporates a journal. Sometimes it was a bit confusing with the switches in time. Especially since it does not follow a straightforward sequence.
- As I mentioned earlier, this book presents some heavy and complicated ideas. I can't honestly say that I have a complete grasp on everything presented and it is a book that I will likely read again at a future date to gain a better understanding.
The White Forest is one of those books that will stick with me for a long time to come. It is a book that presents layers of complex ideas. It is unexpected and unlike anything I have read before. If you like books that will draw you outside your normal reading comfort zone and cause you to think outside the box, you should try this book. My head is still buzzing from this read!
“There is no real human mind, is there, Miss Silverlake? There are only a variety of shifting phantasms.”
“If Nathan ever chose one of us, the fantasy would be broken. Flood waters would rise.”
“Evelyn Silverlake’s death was unnatural, to be sure. It was as though she faltered. Like she could no longer hold her place in the world. And so she closed her eyes and looked at us no longer. She gazed instead at that place she was meant for.”
“But those old days were past; we walked in the tatters of our own history.”
“My mother had a whole litter of children with which to contend. At every chance, we attempted to squirm loose from the pile. From time to time, we did escape, and we experienced reality without the filter of our parentage.”
A big thanks to Simon and Schuster Publishing for the review copy and to Shane@ Itching for Books for hosting the tour.