The Victorian Chaise-Longue – Marghanita Laski

Sometimes I think some books come magically into our lives at just the right time and ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ by Marghanita Laski is one such book. This isn’t a book I owned nor is it a book that I had from the library, in fact it’s thanks to the lovely Novel Insights (who came to stay for the weekend while her beloved is in Hong Kong) who brought me the copy she had taken out from the library and thought I might like to read too. I liked it so much I almost refused to put it down and get out of bed to be a good host as I was so engrossed yesterday morning.

‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ was once described as a ‘little jewel of horror’ and that in itself was enough for me to know I might like it a great deal. Marghanita Laski tells us the tale of Melanie a young woman in 1950’s London who is recovering from Tuberculosis not long after having given birth. Tired of her own bedroom and the mundane boredom of recovery, and yet getting excited over the littlest thing her doctor allows her to spend some time in a new room for a change. In doing so she ends up resting on her antique chaise-long and dozing only to wake up in the body of someone else in a time from the past about 90 years or more previously. The tale follows Melanie as she becomes aware she is trapped in the body of Milly and as through the horror of realising this is not a dream.

Though by today’s standards this doesn’t seem a horror story its still very much a ‘little jewel’ and one I found really uneasy reading. The way Laski puts you in the brain of Melanie with the body of Milly is wonderfully written. You have the terror, the self denial that its ‘merely imagination’ and the creeping horror of the truth dawning upon Melanie as she tries to work out how she can escape this madness. You also get a few twists as you go along and learn more about Milly, a young woman disgraced, before a huge twist at the end which left me well and truly shocked.

Call it horror or not it’s a fantastic story which gripped me from the very start. When Melanie first woke up in another body and another time I did have to do a little double take as I really wasn’t expecting that to be the direction that this book went. I also thought that through the similarities between Melanie and Milly and their situations, which I will give nothing more away about, you do see how life had in some ways changed for women in nearly a hundred years and in some ways had very much stayed the same was an interesting subject for Laski to look at whilst at the same time producing such a little dark work, for indeed at 99 pages its quite a thin book but don’t let its size fool you for a second it packs one heck of a punch.

I loved this book and it will be going on my wish list as it a book I could easily spend a few hours reading again and again. . It also fits in perfectly as a read for Jewish Book Week which I mentioned on Saturday. Its currently unavailable new (there are some pricey second hand editions about) as Persephone print certain books in certain batches I gather but I have heard rumour it will be available in the not too distant future and I for one (well actually more likely The Converted One) will be one of the first in the queue to get a copy all of my own. Its one book I definitely want on my shelves. If you haven’t read it then do give it a whirl if you can, if you have read it what did you think?


Filed under Books of 2010, Marghanita Laski, Persephone Books, Review

32 responses to “The Victorian Chaise-Longue – Marghanita Laski

  1. I’d love to read this! Sounds great.

  2. I did love this book, it is definitely my favourite of all of the Laski’s that I have read courtesy of Persephone.

    Am envious of house-guests who bring books to borrow! i’m the sort of person who goes to stay with someone and then decimates their shelves…

  3. Thank you for sharing this, it sounds exactly like my cup of tea! Now begins the hunt for a copy haha.

  4. Annabel (gaskella)

    I loved it too, (I’m told Little Boy Lost is even better), but this was a perfect and totally claustrophobic horror of a tale.

  5. I have a copy of this on the TBR…now I want to read it very quickly! Great review!

  6. henrietta

    Haven’t read this, but loved “The Village”.

  7. This was my second Persephone bought and read and I haven’t looked back ;). Did you prefer it to Little Boy Lost or did you enjoy them both on their own merits and prefer not to compare? The thing I love about the Laski titles that Persephone publish is that they are all completely different in premise; she seems to be an entirely original and captivating writer. I have copies of both To Bed With Grand Music and The Village to hand and I can’t wait to read them both.

    I’ve recommended it to Novel Insights in response to this and to you in the past, but do read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I was heavily reminded of it when reading The Victorian Chaise-Longue as it is similar in subject matter if not tone.

    • I don’t know if I could compare this book with Little Boy Lost as they are so different, I mean really this is more a novella and of a different genre almost so I dont know if I could compare. I do know that I did enjoy both of them very much. For me maybe this one a tiny bit more because of the genre and the eerieness.

  8. Sounds great! I’m definitely putting this one on the Wish List.

  9. novelinsights

    So chuffed that you liked this! And I enjoyed my hiatus at Savidge Towers while awaiting the return of my loved one.

  10. Great review. I must add this to my TBR. Thank you!

  11. I bought that novel when I was in the UK 3 years ago.

    Loved it.

    It’s quiet but eerie at the same time. I would hate to be stuck in the past. I like the modern bathroom, the Internet, and the movies. And my choice of what to do with my life.

    • I found the idea of being stuck in a different body in a different time in our past utterly freaky and so creepy, the frustration Laski writes that the reader goes through is incredible.

  12. I read this in one go a couple of years ago, and was very impressed. Must revisit… thanks for your review.

  13. fleurfisher

    Marghanita Laski is quite possibly a genius. I’ve read and loved three completely different books and the fourth looks extremely promising. Given the popularity of VCL, I wouldn’t be surprised if Persephone are holding back reprinting because a Persephone Classics issue is in the works.

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  15. This sounds great! Book bloggers are such enablers – I have rushed off and ordered it online. Yep, I have hundreds of unread books at home but my book-buying addiction knows no bounds!

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