Friday, September 20, 2013

The Deadly Space Between

The Deadly Space Between / Patricia Duncker
New York: Harper Perennial, c2003.
256 p.

It seems that I've been finding a few duds in my RIP reading over the last few years. Last year I read a book that I really, really disliked, finding it creepy and violent, despairing with no good reason given for it (Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye)

I suppose this one would be this year's unpleasant choice, for me. I read it because it was on my TBR list of 20 books to read this year off of my shelves, as I've owned it for a long time. And I liked this author's first book, Hallucinating Foucault, which I read many years ago now. But this one, well, I'm not sure exactly what it was about it that disturbed me and resulted in a queasy response to it.

It's blurbed as follows:
An eerie psychological ghost story with echoes of Faust, Freud, and Frankenstein, The Deadly Space Between is a disturbing tale of Oedipal passions -- a rich and dark exploration of sexual ambiguity and longing.
The storyline is that young single mother Isobel, a painter, is unusually close to her son Toby who is only 15 years younger than she is. Now that Toby is a sullen teenager, Isobel takes up with a new lover, the enigmatic Roehm, who captivates both Isobel and Toby. Isobel's sister is violently opposed to her connection with Roehm, for reasons we later discover. So far, so good.

But. There is prurient, incestual sex involved in this story, among more than one set of characters. It doesn't add to the tale, it feels gratuitous and icky. Aside from this content, I ended up being very confused about Roehm's character. He is mysterious and powerful, a scientist who is doing biological studies in a dark, humid room which he takes Toby to, once. Roehm only comes around at night, and he seems to have a preternatural sense of what people are thinking, and seeing. He gives Toby a computer as a gift, and thus Toby tries to search for information about Roehm online -- he can find nothing, except a mention of a 19th century scientist who died during a mountaintop expedition.

When Isobel and Toby try to run from him at the conclusion of the book, they end up in Switzerland, in the mountains, where they run out onto a mountain path and Isobel collaspses, with visions of a man in the snow. Guess who? It's Roehm, the modern one, and the 19th century one. I couldn't work out whether he was a ghost, a psychological figment, a spirit, a descendent of the original -- nothing really fit with the story -- he has a presence in the modern world, not to mention prodigious sexual appetites, so how does that work?

I was confused, but glad enough to be done with this that I didn't try to puzzle it out any further. Unfortunately, this one is not recommended: it's simply deadly.


  1. Sorry this book didn't turn out well; I hate it when a book I read leaves a bad taste in my mouth after I'm done. Hopefully, you have a better book waiting in the wings. And thanks for the warning about staying away from this one!

    1. Yes, I hate it too -- I usually don't finish them if I feel that way, but I just had to complete this one. At least I can give it away now ;) And yes, I had two fabulous reads to follow it, reviews upcoming...

  2. Well it's a shame this didn't work out - and it sort of started out sounding quite promising. I will definitely not read this (1) - because eww and (2) just no!
    Thanks for your honest review which I really appreciate.
    Lynn :D

    1. Lynn.... exactly! Glad I could help...but I am sorry this wasn't a better read :(


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