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Ghostwalk Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385521073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385521079
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. British historian Stott makes a stunning debut with this hypnotic and intelligent thriller, the first fiction release of a new Random House imprint. The mysterious drowning death of Elizabeth Vogelsang, a Cambridge University scholar who was almost finished writing a controversial biography of Isaac Newton, leads her son, Cameron Brown, to recruit Lydia Brooke, his former lover, to complete the book. That request plunges Brooke into probing two ostensibly separate series of murders: one in the 17th century claimed the lives of several who stood between Newton and the fellowship he needed to continue his studies at Cambridge; the other in the present day appears to target those who have offended a radical animal rights group. Brooke's work may be haunted by a ghost from Newton's time who guides her to a radical reinterpretation of the role of alchemy and the supernatural in Newton's life. Much more than a clever whodunit, this taut, atmospheric novel with its twisty interconnections between past and present will leave readers hoping Stott has many more stories in her future. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The New Yorker

Drawing on alchemy, neurology, animal-rights activism, and supernatural visitations, this début novel is an ambitious, learned thriller. A Cambridge historian dies under suspicious circumstances, leaving behind the nearly completed manuscript of a book on the alchemical experiments of Isaac Newton. Her son, a research scientist, hires his former lover, Lydia, to finish the book. Meanwhile, a shadowy group of animal-rights activists escalate their violent attacks. As Lydia is drawn further into Newton’s seventeenth-century world, she begins to believe that his ghost is haunting her and, perhaps, directing the murderous events of the present. Stott, a historian of science, deploys her research effortlessly and demonstrates great attention to detail, but the proliferation of themes means that none are explored in much depth. Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Rebecca Stott is a professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She is the author of the novels The Coral Thief and Ghostwalk and a biography, Darwin and the Barnacle, and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. She lives in Cambridge, England.

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an intelligent book that educates and entertains at the same time.
Veronica K. Goodan
I didn't care for the narrator "voice" used (the device of having the main character "talking" to another main character throughout), which I found very distracting.
readerkat
The storyline builds from the very beginning but the way all the lose ends, end up tied together was disapointing and boring.
J. Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Rebecca Stott's "Ghostwalk" suggests a powerful connection between the past and the present. After historian Elizabeth Vogelsang is found drowned under mysterious circumstances, writer Lydia Brooke agrees to finish Vogelsang's manuscript about Isaac Newton. When she moves into Elizabeth's home to conduct her research, Lydia is shaken by a series of bizarre occurrences. Although the idea seems preposterous, Lydia begins to suspect that, for some inexplicable reason a spirit from the past may want to stop her from completing the book.

The story is told in flashback. Lydia, the first person narrator, is apparently recovering from a severe shock. By putting her thoughts in order, she may be attempting to clarify whatever happened that made her suddenly start believing in the supernatural. As a result of her work on Elizabeth's manuscript, Lydia realizes that the past can never completely be laid to rest. It is "like a stain in an old stone wall that seeps through the plaster." Elizabeth was immersed in the seventeenth century, and something or someone from that century may have killed her.

This story has three interwoven threads: one is the tangled relationship between Lydia and Elizabeth's son, Cameron. In spite of the fact that he is married, Cameron is a philanderer who has a long romantic history with Lydia. Although she left him before, Lydia cannot bring herself to reject Cameron when he reenters her life. The second is a series of ever-escalating attacks allegedly carried out by animal rights activists against Cameron (a neuroscientist and a fellow of Trinity College) and his colleagues, all of whom engage in animal experimentation. The third deals with Elizabeth's inquiries into Newton's life and work.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walker VINE VOICE on June 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The great work of alchemy is both the subject and the controlling metaphor for this novel. Lydia Brooke takes on the task of ghost-writing the last chapters and final draft of a study of Isaac Newton's involvement with alchemy written by her friend, Elizabeth Vogelsang (also the mother of her former lover.) Initially Lydia sees the major elements of that process as Elizabeth's existing research and writing on Newton and the author's ideas about where the study was going, ideas that must be recovered from notes and conversations with Elizabeth's friends. The work is undertaken in Elizabeth's studio, a veritable retort of a space, all glass and light - air bright with sun and fire, the earth of an apple orchard all around, and the river on the margins.

The reader soon realizes what Lydia refuses to recognize: Elizabeth's son, Cameron Brown, Lydia's lover for a decade past, is a major element of the process in the studio. So the process she is consciously working on is not the process actually in motion. Lydia is not the alchemist here; that is Elizabeth - or, more precisely, the historical past. Lydia and Cameron are the elements in the chemical marriage. The really brilliant decision to narrate the novel as first-person directly addressed to Cameron underscores this.

But for the great work to succeed, the elements and the adept must be pure, a point Stott makes with the Isaac Newton material. No one is pure in this novel. Lydia lies to herself, to her friends, to Cameron, lies unnecessarily, casually almost. Cameron lies enormously, to everyone, and cheats cruelly, as well as undertaking a truly wicked course of action. And yet, perhaps the most impure element here is Elizabeth - as a metaphor for the past -- whose unexplained death opens the book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lexi Andreas on September 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
I won't go over the plot, because it has been stated, but there is indeed a good basic story here and that is what kept me reading LONG after I wanted to put the book down. I finally skimmed the second half, which is a shame, because the author can indeed turn a lovely phrase.

Any powerful writing by the author, however, gets lost in her many literary devices; devices which do not serve the story, but rather hinder it. The worst device is her annoying use of the second person point of view which serves no purpose except to distance the reader from the story. I felt like an interloper eavesdropping on the conversation between the narrator and her lover. When the writer switched to third person, it really pulled me out of the story. Not exactly the "suspension of disbelief" which fiction aims for. Other counterproductive literary devices included flashbacks embedded within flashbacks and way, way overwrought symbolism.

I also found it irritating that the narrator was so aloof and "above it all." I felt no sympathy for her, no emotional connection. Although we know her thoughts, we are not privy to her feelings. My gosh--she is being haunted by ghosts--can't we have a wee bit of terror? She accepts the haunting as if it were the morning dew on the grass.

Would I buy this book again? No. Read only if you are into literature which is written for its own sake, rather than with a reader in mind.
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Format: Hardcover
Weaving the 17th century of Isaac Newton with contemporary England, Stott mixes past and present in a heady brew of scholarship, an illicit affair and the insidious threat that defines the current age of terrorism. In 17th century Cambridge, soon after the return of the plague and the Great Fire of London in 1666, Newton pursues his experiments, his scientific interest married to alchemy: earth, water, fire, space and air transmutable to create all forms of matter. It is impossible to separate the two, critically dependent on information from "European secret societies, Freemasons and alchemists, groups of men in the Hague and in London, Cambridge and Paris". The secrets of the universe are at stake, the belief that the essence of life can be reduced to one invaluable formula. Science and alchemy are natural bedfellows in this century of experimentation, where nature's great secrets slowly yield to perseverance and dedication, certain groups charged with the safe-keeping of such powerful knowledge.

Modern day Cambridge is the repository of such arcane details. Elizabeth Vogelsang has dedicated years of her life to the study of Newton's accomplishments and is on the verge of an explosive discovery that will shock academia, tracking his movements like a modern day detective through the 17th century, identifying his close associates, questioning their loyalty to the cause and the mysterious deaths of five people at Trinity College. When Elizabeth is found dead near her cottage, the Studio, it is her son, Cameron Brown, who discovers the body. Since Elizabeth's book on Newton and alchemy is nearly finished, Cameron asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the final chapters, so that his mother's work may not be in vain.
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