by Oscar Wilde
This is one of those Classic stories I've meant to read for years and have finally got to it. Oscar Wilde comes from an era when characters were written bigger than life, even when they are dead. Many clichés of ghost story writing, like blood stains that reappear after being cleaned up, are to be found in this one, but the reader should remember that Wilde probably wrote them first! His sometimes humorous take on ghostly activity set the tone for many stories that came after.
My only complaint would be that sometimes the ghost had too much physicality. The antics of the children who chose to torment him instead of fearing him might have had greater limitations if he couldn't slip on floors or have his dignity damaged by projectiles.
Later in the story, humour gives way to a poignant encounter with the little girl in the family who feels sorry for the ghost and his plight. The gamut of emotions that are woven through the tale make me want to read more of Oscar Wilde to discover his full potential as a writer.
This was the first of two manuscripts finished by Brad Strickland after the death of John Bellairs in 1991. I haven't read a full biography, I don't know if there even is one, but it seems to me from Bellairs' focus on Johnny Dixon through the '80s tells me that these manuscripts were likely experiments and wouldn't have seen publication. The only full posthumous work he left was 'The Mansion in the Mist', a rare Anthony Monday book, and one of his all-time best works.
Rose Rita and Lewis had reached a point in their relationship where certain realities were gonna have to be addressed if their friendship was going to continue. Romantic feelings, even if Rose Rita and Lewis were going to stay platonic, were not Bellairs' territory. He left them behind for good reason.
That said, this is a Rose Rita book and that means its great. Stuck in New Zebedee with a broken ankle while Lewis and Jonathan are in Europe, she makes plans with Mrs. Zimmerman to go on a road trip as soon as she can travel. Mrs. Zimmerman has been feeling the loss of her magic and needs a distraction. Of course, she has a supernatural ulterior motive: a message from her long-passed teacher in a magic mirror tells her that if she rights a great wrong she will find her powers.
Bessy, Mrs. Zimmerman's car, transports the two to the 1830's and seemingly strands them there. What is the wrong they need to correct, and is there a more sinister motive to their being lured into the past?
This was fun, but adult me couldn't get over the lack of period details. The farm family don't speak in 19th century fashion and there are a lot of things like individual bedrooms for the whole, extended family that didn't seem right. Bellairs often inserted obscure bits of 1950s nostalgia into his books in the way of radio programs and defunct candy bars as way to introduce modern readers to a past way of life, and Strickland didn't come up with an 1830s equivalent.
The other nagging detail is I've always felt, even when I read these as they came out in the early '90s, is that 'Vengeance of the Witch-Finder' should really come first. They happen simultaneously, sort of, but the pace would really work better if their order was switched. As their written now, reading them that way spoils 'Ghost in the Mirror', but Strickland could have changed that.
Lewis & Rose Rita
Previous: 'The Letter, the Witch and the Ring'