I see from other people’s reviews on Amazon, that this is something of a ‘marmite’ book with people either loving or hating it. Well, I love marmite (on hot buttered toast…mmm!) and I love (or at least really liked) this book. It feels like a Victorian Gothic novel, with a deep sense of foreboding and dread throughout. It’s a retelling of a previous novel called Melmoth the Wanderer with Melmoth changed from a man who made a pact with the devil, to a woman who witnessed Christ’s resurrection but refused to testify that she had and was punished with eternal wandering and witnessing Man’s wickedness towards his fellow man.
The main character, Helen is an English woman living in Prague in a sort of self-imposed exile because of the guilt she feels over a secret from her past. She befriends an odd couple and the husband gives her a dossier before fleeing the country. It contains collected stories of people who have come into contact with Melmoth and Helen feels haunted by their stories and by the feeling of Melmoth coming for her because of her own guilty past.
I found the book really gripping and engaging, and I enjoyed reading the individual stories, as well as the arc of learning Helen’s history. I found the ending a little confusing, though, and the overall theme of the book a little too depressing and lacking in redemption, although it’s possible that there were deeper redemptive themes that when over my head? Still, a good read and I’m keen to read another book by Sarah Perry now.