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Angelica: A Novel Hardcover – April 3, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Victorian England, Phillips's impressive third novel uses four linked viewpoints to explore class, gender, family dynamics, sexuality and sciences both real and fraudulent, ancient and newly minted. Joseph Barton, a London biological researcher, orders his four-year-old daughter, Angelica, who's been sleeping in her parents' bedroom, to her own room. Joseph's wife, Constance, resists this separation from her child and the resumption of a marital intimacy that, given her history of miscarriage, may threaten her life. Soon Constance notices foul odors, furniture cracks and a blue specter that appears to attack Angelica while she sleeps. When she reports these supernatural visitations to the unimaginative Joseph, the rift between them widens. Desperate, Constance turns to actress-turned-spiritualist Annie Montague for help. Phillips (Prague) captures period diction and detail brilliantly. At its strongest, the multiple-viewpoint narration yields psychological depth and a number of clever surprises; at its weakest, it can slow the book's momentum to an uncomfortably slow (if authentically Victorian) pace. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Phillips’s third novel, set in Victorian London, starts as a ghost story. When Joseph instructs his wife, Constance, to have their four-year-old daughter, Angelica, moved from their bedroom into a room of her own, Constance becomes convinced that a seductive spectral force is preying on the child. The catastrophe that follows is relayed from the perspectives of Constance; of her supposed redeemer, an actress turned exorcist; and of Joseph—each view ultimately being rendered by the adult Angelica. What at first appears a rather glib ghost story predicated on Victorian clichés of sexual repression and patriarchal tyranny turns into a spectacular, ever-proliferating tale of mingled motives, psychological menace, and delicately told crises of appetite and loneliness. Phillips sustains a pastiche of Victorian writing and ideas with enticing playfulness, and without making his characters or their complex fears and desires laughable.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062515
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,101,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I tried to read Arthur Phillip's last novel THE EGYPTOLOGIST but found the narrator and subject matter both daunting. I am so glad I did not give up on him because ANGELICA is one of the best novels I've read in a long long time. With his multiple narrators, Phillips demonstrates a rare ability to captures brilliantly the mind of both female and male characters but I was particularly moved by this ability to show the vulnerability of women in the Victorian era. It does not surprise me that reviewers have compared this novel not only with Henry James but with the haunting classic novel The Yellow Wallpaper by early feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This is surely the first novel by Phillips that I would recommend whole heartedly to my book group (and we are fussy!!).
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Format: Hardcover
It's rare that a contemporary writer can offer a compelling plot and such marvelous language skills that his reader is totally transported to another place and time. Phillips does exactly that with his latest novel, ANGELICA. I was drawn in with the opening sentence and completely fascinated until the last paragraph. It's a wonderful read, filled with insights - both historical and psychological - and will be perfect for my book club to discuss.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all three of Arthur Phillips's books and liked each one more than the last. Any moments of uneveness evident in "Prague" had disappeared by the time he wrote "The Egyptologist." It is rare in this disposable era to watch a writer grow into his talent, but that is exactly what Phillips has done. "Angelica" is a stellar, completely assured work. Whether you like Victorian ghost stories or just strong writing, this is your book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ANGELICA is a book I could not put down. I could have finished it in two days but saved the last thirty pages for the following day, because I didn't want it to end. Aside from the masterful storytelling that gave me all the suspense and excitement of a good read, this is a brilliant and thought-provoking book on several levels. It is a deeply important book that explores the nature of reality, memory, and identity. If you are a woman, it is a must-read. It addresses our deepest secrets and our worst fears in a most imaginative and insightful manner. I still can hardly believe a man wrote this book. He is clearly a tremendously compassionate person who has done a great service by writing this book. I could discusss ANGELICA for hours--which makes it a perfect book group choice.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm using "entertainment" in the way it would have been used in the world of the novel - applicable to high art as well as low. First and foremost, the book is a terrific read. Phillips holds his cards close for a while, but once you get a glimpse, you can't wait to see what else is in his hand. The writing achieves a pitch-perfect evocation of nineteenth-century novels, with moments of startling brilliance.

Phillips is after more than a clever and compelling plot, however, engaging profound questions concerning the nature of perception, the dynamics of family, and the obstacles to self-knowledge. The book will unsettle you - in the way any ambitious work of art should.
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Format: Hardcover
Stationary store clerk Constance is euphoric and overwhelmed when she marries biological researcher Joseph Barton as she has changed from lowly shop girl to the lady of the manor. She decides to give her spouse children, but over the years only Angelica is born. When their daughter turns four, Joseph insists their offspring no longer sleep in their room. Constance panics as she fears for Angelica's safety having seen spirits hover over her child; however Joseph's temper is more frightening so she reluctantly accepts that Angelica will sleep in her own room.

Still Constance consults with a spiritualist Anne Montague, who thinks there is something perverted about Joseph and his ferocious rage at home that manifests in the spirits. Joseph cannot understand why his wife suddenly fears him and cringes at his touch as if he is a beast. Years later, an adult Angelica wonders whether when she was a child if her father was a sexual predator, her mother a delusional maniac, or something even more frightening from beyond.

This late Victorian psychological suspense tale switches perspective as the key players provide their point of view re what is happening when Angelica turned four. The story line grips readers who are unsure as to what is the truth as each person's version seems right at the time it is presented. Interestingly the audience will empathize with Constance and Joseph as hey share in common the belief that their partner does not understand them. ANGELICA is a strong suspense thriller that will keep fans reading to learn supernatural or mundane cause and effect.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
Have you ever picked up a book with a brilliant and genuinely original plot... only to have this potential masterpiece spoiled by an author's clumsy narration?

This is exactly how I would describe Angelica: A Novel. Arthur Phillips has come up with an excellent plot but adapted such a pretentious and clumsy Victorian tone while narrating that it made what should have been a suspenseful novel annoying and unreadable.

Phillips attempts to adapt a tone similar to Henry James' Turn of the Screw and he fails miserably. Instead, the book is filled with paragraph after paragraph of convoluted, repetitive, pretentious dribble. I for one love it when authors use unreliable narrators to add layers upon layers to the story but the language that Phillips uses is almost laughable in his struggle to sound authentically Victorian. Ultimately, this novel was not only bogged down by vague and inauthentic use of language.. but also Phillips takes too long to make his point and deliver a satisfying climax to keep the reader wanting more. Halfway thru the novel, I found myself impatiently thinking "When does the action start?... the mystery that will keep me reading hungrily as I endeavored to reach a truly satisfying conclusion." Sadly, this moment never comes which was disappointing to say the least because the plot is a unique and intriguing one- too bad the author did not have the skill and imagination to craft it into a fine tale. This novel was a mess and a disappointing read.
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