Hearts Strange and Dreadful by Tim McGregor
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
I’d say - Language. Prose. Immersion. Character. Believability.
I can’t do it. There’s too much -
there’s too much here to contain.
Have you ever read a book that draws you into its world so completely that whenever you are forced to arise out of it, it is with a grudging blur? You are so unwilling to leave the fantasy, that your eyes have naturally attuned to that finite distance between yourself and the book - that perfect gap between yourself and the craft - and when you are pulled away from it, it takes seconds for your eyes to readjust, your brain to reconnect to the real, and for you to awake from the dream?
This book made me hate work. I wanted to be back in the story’s fold, with Hester and Will and Henry and all of Hester’s siblings. I wanted to confirm my suspicions, I wanted to bathe in the language, be sated by the historical context, lose myself in the horror of creeping rot – of consumption (T.B.) and paranormal activity, of ghouls and vampires and whatever the hell the villain actually is/was.
McGregor has penned an outstanding novel. It succeeds on so many levels – the world-building is divine. Tim has either researched the language of the time or has hit a collective conscious belief of that said language – it reads perfectly – as if he had traveled back in time to that era and shut up and listened to what the people were saying, and absorbed the tones, vocabulary, and beliefs of those people, and then put pen to paper. Alone that, by itself, makes the novel immersive to the point of exclusion to everything else in your life, but then the man layers on characters and their scars, so wonderfully conceived that it is impossible not to share their limited dreams and nightmares. Hester is so solid a character that her entire world, as perceived through her wonderful pov, draws the reader in, as close to the action as it is possible to get. So sublimely done, that it is only on reflection, after having finished the novel, that one realizes that in fact that not so much actually happened. The events that occur in Hearts, Strange and dreadful have become our everyday life. The small, insignificant worries and hopes of the characters, the interplays, loves and hates, have become our world. Its everyday survival tales reflect our own, and we are forced to accept the reality -
We have transposed Tim’s world onto our own, and are paying it the same immediate attention as our own personal dramas.
It’s just lush. There’s no other word that springs to mind that does the book justice. The mystery of the book is an unanswered question that the reader is never asked – Our collective will for the book to be something paranormal defines the mystery. We need for the collective madness to manifest into a tangible paranormal phenomenon, one that we name early on, confident in our "lore's" and "mythology". We think we have the plot planned out. We believe so strongly in our logic, yet we desperately need to remain in the language of the book, to bathe in its atmosphere, and have our beliefs made manifest and affirmed. It’s such a beautiful experience. Tim has brought us to the point of believing so ardently in our logic, that we need those beliefs confirmed, and to an extent, they are.
So when even a small part of those beliefs are proven not to be the case, we are massively, bitterly, unbelievably offended.
Tim - Will. How could you?!
You made us care.
For every complaint, every spoken disbelief in the ending, every frustrated reader, know that you made the book real for us, at that moment. It was real. It still is, achingly so.
A reality preferable to spend time in than our own.
The mystery of the book (what is it that is going on?) is an unspoken question that we formulate ourselves, and which we know the answer to, even at the very beginning of the book, and which we start to answer upon reading, finding those answers even though you only allow us to formulate that question ourselves at the end of the book. So likewise, this review does the same. I've already given you the answers at the beginning of the review.
I’m sure you’ll figure out what my question to myself was.
All the stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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