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Possession (1969): Play Your Wild Card, See the House Come Down Around Your Head

Celia Fremlin, Possession (Pocket, 1969)

[originally posted 6Nov2000]

Two dolls hung by nooses decorate the mass market paperback cover.

The swinging and the ringing of the dolls, dolls, dolls, dolls, dolls, dolls, dolls…
photo credit: Barnes and noble

This, the debut novel by a woman who’s since gone on to pen close to one hundred more, should have been a much better book than Night of the Vampire. The plot is simple and easy to work with (family watches daughter fall in love with someone with an overbearing mother—shades of Bloch, Hintze, et al.), the twists are intriguing (the main character’s friend, whose house is always full of interesting strangers); etc. Fremlin had a lot of really good ingredients, and is capable of writing scintillating prose when she wants to; every five pages or so a sentence or a paragraph would make me stop cold and marvel at the quality of this woman’s writing. The problem is, once every five pages or so isn’t enough to make the book shine, especially when it’s under two hundred pages. So I ended up dropping this one into the “wasted potential” file. It showed enough promise that I’ll probably attempt to pick up a few of her later works and see if she ever put it all together properly, but it didn’t work in this one. * ½

[ed. note 2013: entirely by chance, when I was at the Case book sale this year, I picked up another of Fremlin’s novels, much more recent. I knew the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember why. I’ve kicked it way up the priority queue.]

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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