Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ANGELICA by Arthur Phillips

Things are not always what they seem. Angelica is the four-year-old daughter of Constance and Joseph and still sleeps in her parents' bedroom. When Joseph demands that Angelica be moved to her own room, Constance starts seeing a belligerent ghost who seems to threaten her and her daughter. She consults a spiritualist, Anne Montague, to eradicate the ghost. First, we get the entire tale from Constance's perspective, then Anne's, then Joseph's, and finally Angelica's. Perspective is obviously key, as the first three accounts differ wildly from each other, with each subsequent account making the previous one seem ludicrous. Constance's fears and suspicions are tainted by a tormented childhood, and Anne draws her own conclusions, based on what she observes and hears from Constance. Joseph's story is the most tragic, as he describes his bewilderment at his wife's actions and tries to gain some sort of grip on a household in disarray. Angelica is like a pendulum, contributing to the general sense of distrust between her parents, swinging her affections from one parent to another. In this case, truth is in the eye of the beholder. I wonder if my sense of what happened would be altered if I had read the sections in a different order.

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