The Witch of Lime Street [Book Review]

I’d like to think I’m usually pretty good at giving a book a fair chance. I tend to try and withhold judgement and always see it through to the end. There has only been one book that I can recall deliberately not finishing in recent years, and that was Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Upon reading the opening paragraphs of The Witch of Lime Street, I was already feeling a little frustrated that I still had so long to go. The language is strange – sentences are long, punctuation is sparse and the narrative seems jerky and hard to follow. The narrative reads as though it is deliberately trying to use complex language to sound impressive, rather than just telling a story well. It also seemed needlessly dragged out in parts, particularly in the description of the seances.

Putting that aside, however, the subject matter is actually quite interesting. The book, set in the 1920s, focuses on Houdini and “The Witch of Lime Street”, more commonly known as Margery. Based on true events, it tells how Margery was prompted to enter a competition run by a science magazine to find a ‘real’ medium. Luckily for her, four of the judges of the competition believed in her powers. Unluckily for her, the fifth judge was Houdini, who was having none of it and wanted to disprove her authenticity.

From a historical point of view, it is an interesting read in terms of learning about the rise of spiritualism and the belief in an afterlife in the early part of the last century, and the author has clearly done his research well, particularly into sharing little personal tidbits about the characters.

Sadly though, the interesting subject matter isn’t enough to keep this book interesting, and the lengthy, drawn out nature of the book left me feeling a sense of “are we done yet?” throughout its 400+ pages. Overall, an interesting subject bogged down by verbosity.



*Disclaimer: This review has been based upon a free copy of the book provided by the publisher




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