I’m very fortunate to live in an area which has a library well-stocked with Persephone titles, particularly as I have rather exceeded my book buying budget recently! Having read a lot of great reviews of this book I was eager to have a look and so booked it out at the weekend, thinking that at under 100 pages I could read through it quickly and not feel guilty about ignoring my ever-increasing tbr pile.

The plot seems relatively straightforward – Melanie, a 1950s rather spoiled young mum, is confined to bed suffering from TB and has barely seen her small baby. A visit from the doctor and her doting husband start the book off and Mel is told she is well enough to be moved to another room for a change of scene. That change of scene is the hideous chaise-longue of the title, purchased by our heroine on the day she was diagnosed with her disease.

There are early hints here that something is not quite right as Mel has a kind of flashback to a previous event on the chaise-longue, but she buys it anyway and this is the first chance she gets to make use of it. After falling asleep, our heroine wakes up to find herself still on the chaise-longue but apparently having travelled back to Victorian times, with a slightly different name, a worse version of her disease and a horrid sister. The plot continues with Melly/Milly trying to make sense of what has happened to her and find a way to get back to her own place and time.
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Well, I read this book quickly, over two evenings, and I did have high hopes about it as the reviews were so glowing and told how scary and well-written it was. Unfortunately, I actually found the story quite disappointing. I didn’t find it remotely scary and ended up wondering quite what all the fuss was about. The book was  well-written and there were passages, when the lines between the two characters apparently inhabiting the same body blurred, which were very effective. However, far too much of the story involved Melly/Milly pontificating about religion and punishment for her bad behaviour (whatever it has been). The 1850s version of our heroine has obviously committed some unnamed sin and if a larger part of the book had been developed to show a stronger contrast between expectations of women’s behaviour 100 years apart, the story might have had a little more impact. There were clever hints of parallel sexual misconduct in both eras (the two different doctors, the Curate and the Husband) and an undertone of jealousy that was never really went anywhere. The denouement seemed a little rushed to me and there was a lack of a final resolution.

Maybe I expected a little too much, but it is possible to tell a gripping tale in 100 pages (as the many Hesperus Press volumes testify!) My first Persephone was Every Eye by Isobel English, an equally brief volume, and I found that unputdownable and extremely enoyable and well told, with a killer last line. It may be that if Laski had produced The Victorian Chaise-Longue as a longer novel, with more exploration of the characters, their foibles and their surroundings, a full length tale would have had much more impact. But you can’t like every book ever written and so maybe my next Persephone will be more satisfying!

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