Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction | Release Date: 7 October 2021 | Standalone | Pages: 342 | Publisher: Duckworth Books | Review
I’ve been aching to read another gothic tale, so The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West was just what I needed! An intriguing combination of historical facts and fiction, the tale of William Jackson Crawford was completely new to me when I picked up this book. And now? I just want to learn more!
William Jackson Crawford is a Professor of Engineering, living in Belfast in 1914. With the world still coming to terms with the sinking of the Titanic just two years prior, the wealthy populace of Belfast are now obsessed with spiritualism. Wary of this disturbing trend, William refuses to believe that spirits can talk from beyond the veil. However, a tragedy soon forces William to explore the world of death and séances… Is he right to think the medium Kathleen Goligher is a fraud? Can he accept that his wife, Elizabeth, is keeping secrets from him? Is any of this spiritual phenomena actually explainable by science?
The Spirit Engineer is a fascinating merger of genres, easily twining gothic and historical fiction together. Although it took me a while to get into the spirit of things (see what I did there), it really is a wonderful mix of reality and fiction, with gothic overtones to complement this haunting story. West’s writing brings the reader straight into the heart of tragedy, with social history like the sinking of the Titanic and WWI an overlaying theme of death. And it is *powerful*.
There’s always been a friction between science and spiritualism. And The Spirit Engineer highlights this so well with a man of science, William, doubting every experience he has. This book takes us on a detailed journey into how séances can be faked, and what happens if every answer still comes back with ‘this is real’. These characters completely embody the normative social aspects of their era, which actually makes the narration even more disturbing as things progress. Because how could normal people behave this way? This had to become a happiness boost, because I *love* when a gothic tale makes me wary about everything!
Can we talk a little about quotable, poignant moments? Because truly, West has excelled with these. I was especially caught up in the idea of how the dead would soon be clamouring at Kathleen, because there were just so many boys and men who died in the war. The awfulness of war, while not the backbone of this tale, is a constant theme that hums across these pages. Maybe I’m macabre, but I actually like that.
It’s a hard thing to admit, but for the first 80 pages I was wondering if I’d made a mistake reading The Spirit Engineer. It felt like things were dragging, and all I could do was hope that it would get better. Thankfully, it did! But other readers may not be as patient about this as I was.
The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West is a riveting gothic historical fiction, about a man of science who delves into spiritualism. And I can tell you now, it left me with a burning desire to know more about the man at the heart of this book, which is a huge plus. So if you love the sound of this story from my review? You can click on any of the links below and order a copy! Happy reading, glitterbugs!
You can order The Spirit Engineer via these links: