This book is filled with ghosts. It's no Turn of the Screw, where unaccountable figures appear and create an aura of dread, or "Ghosthunters", where intrepid investigators try to provoke taps and disembodied voices. This book is filled with the kind of spectres most everyone has to live with. Something terrible happened in the course of an ordinary day – was there anything you could have done to prevent it? Everyone else in the world proceeds through such commonplaces with no misfortune – how could it have gone so horribly for you? An accident in the past – also with terrible and unforeseen results, some immediate and some farther reaching – again, why? How? A figure from the past, once closer than anyone but not seen in years, seems to evade you – why? Has he, someone asks, been in touch in all the years since the last time you saw him? Well, no – but … No. He lingers just outside your field of vision, almost glimpsed, almost sensed. Another ghost.
There is a Galveston legend, according to this book, of a girl who ran off with her lover, not realizing a hurricane was about to strike; she died, and did so rather spectacularly. This old and dear friend, evading contact now, is almost as ephemeral as that girl's spectre. Or perhaps it is she who is almost as real and present as he is.
The Drowning House is the sort of book which makes it very easy to make assumptions about the author. It's such an intimate portrait of Galveston – she must have lived there, and probably was born there. It's about the loss of a child – it's so intimate and raw she must have lost a child. It's about the end of a marriage – not with the bang nor even the whimper but more with a sort of sad sigh – she must have seen a marriage end like this. The main character's own horrible childhood – the author must have experienced something like this for it to be so real. But, truly, this just serves to take away from the ability of the writer. Maybe Elizabeth Black is just like Clare, her main character; maybe she was born and raised in Moldavia and any resemblance to fictional persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. It doesn't matter. What matters is that she has created a beautiful book.
This was a Netgalley offering, read with thanks.