Nothing here is as it seems.
Captivity begins in Rochester New York in 1848 and tells the story of sisters Leah, Maggie and Kate Fox, who helped give rise to the Spiritualist movement. Younger sisters Maggie and Kate seem to have a gift of communicating with the spirit world via “rapping” (don’t ask me to explain it), and managed by older sister Leah they capitalize on their *skills* by giving séances and summoning the dead for grieving loved ones. Their story is intertwined with the fictional one of Clara Gill, who befriends Maggie, and we gradually learn about her back-story with her father and aunts in London and how she came to be such a recluse.
And that’s all I’m really going to tell you. Despite a rocky start that could have been helped by having a bit of knowledge on the sisters and their history (or better yet taking the time to read the publisher’s handout prior to starting :D), once I did get a handle on it I enjoyed it a lot. The writing is lovely and very sparse – no words wasted here – and you’ll be hard pressed not to mark the book up with your favorite quotes.
Real death is not a parlor game but a flat heaviness that weights the limbs, that makes every step a struggle, every breath reproach and violation. It is mold on the morning firewood and a chill that won’t go even when the hearth is banked to roaring, even when the familiar quilt is wound full round weighted legs and feet on a stool like a winding sheet. It is the bitterness of herbs in an undertaker’s parlor and damp shoes by a hole in the ground and the absence of sunlight and emptiness beyond reckoning.
As for whether it was real or all a hoax? Well you’ll just have to read it for yourself and decide, won’t you? This isn’t an action packed page turner and might not appeal to all readers, but I would definitely recommend it for those interested in the topic as well as savoring the beautiful prose.
FTC – why yes I did get it from the publisher. I put in a purchase request to the library first and they declined to buy it (not professionally reviewed they said), and then I got a tip from a fellow blogger (thank you) that there were still review copies available and I asked for one. Shoot me.