by Kris Waldherr
Paperback Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Hardcover & eBook; 336 Pages
A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale.
All love stories are ghost stories in disguise.
When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.
However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.
As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave.
Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.
Famed poet Hugh de Bonne is dead following his wife, Ada sixteen years earlier. From this, Hugh was thrown into a melancholy that produced some of his most famed works published in The Lost History of Dreams as well as a stained glass chapel where he buried his wife. With Hugh's death, distant cousin Robert Hightstead is charged with carrying out Hugh's last wishes- to be buried next to his wife and have a daguerreotype taken with his corpse in the chapel next to Ada's niece, Isabelle Lowell. Robert is the perfect person for the job since he is currently a post-mortem photographer. However, Robert is dealing with a ghost of his own and doesn't want to leave London for long. Upon arriving to Hugh's home in Shropshire, Robert finds that his task is made much harder by Isabelle who will not let anyone open the glass chapel. Robert and Isabelle finally make a deal where Isabelle will open the glass chapel if Robert will record Ada's story over the course of five nights.
The Lost History of Dreams creates a haunting by hopeful story and a mystery that patiently waits to be unfolded and solved. Every character, object and place has been created with a story and a secret that made we want to keep digging in deeper and deeper. From meeting Robert at the beginning of the story I was very curious about and his past and how that led him to be a post-mortem photographer. As the setting moves to Shropshire in Victorian England, a weight settles upon everything that gives the book a distinctive Gothic, atmospheric feeling. The ghosts in the story are created as characters just as much as Isabelle and Robert. I loved the device of a story within a story as Isabelle tells Robert of Ada and Hugh; through the story some mysteries are solved and others arise. The romance entangles not just the dead, but the living as well as two lost souls untangle death to learn how to live.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Kris Waldherr’s books for adults and children include The Lost History of Dreams, Bad Princess, Doomed Queens, and The Book of Goddesses. The Lost History of Dreams received a Kirkus starred review and was called “an unexpected delight” by Booklist. The New Yorker praised Doomed Queens as “utterly satisfying” and “deliciously perverse.” The Book of Goddesses was a One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club’s Top Ten Most Popular Book. Her picture book Persephone and the Pomegranate was lauded by the New York Times Book Review for its “quality of myth and magic.” Her fiction has won fellowships from the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts, and a works-in-progress reading grant from Poets & Writers.
As a visual artist, Waldherr is the creator of the Goddess Tarot, which has a quarter of a million copies in print. She has had illustrations published as greeting cards, book covers, and in calendars and magazines. Her art has been exhibited in many galleries and museums including the Ruskin Library, the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, their young daughter, and a very vocal Bengal cat.