Monday, 10 September 2012

"The Return" by Walter De La Mare

A Review

The authors who can convey a sense of supernatural terror in fiction can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Edgar Allan Poe, Le Fanu in "Uncle Silas" and "The House by the Churchyard," Oliver Onions in "The Beckoning Fair One," have conveyed eerie horror in different measures. Walter de la Mare's "The Return" is a novel of intensive atmosphere, very inadequately recognized on its first issue in 1910, must be ranked with the supreme fiction of the fearsome.
De la Mare can get utter mad tragedy into a quatrain. In a book of 300 odd pages he enters the secret places of the soul and shakes the fabric of the House of Life.
The story begins with slipshod Arthur Lawford, made more irresolute by the melancholy of illness, loitering into the graveyard at Widderstone and pondering over the almost illegible inscription:-
 Here lie ye Bones of one,
Nicholas Sabathier, a Stranger to this Parish,
who fell by his own hand on ye
Eve of Ste. Michael and all the Angels
MDCCXXXIX

He sits there till darkness comes, brooding on this death and the little purpose of life, and wakes up from a half-dream curiously exultant and active, an odd smile darkening his face. Lawford is vaguely conscious of some ghastly change in himself. Only when he reaches his home, enters his bedroom, and begins the commonplace business of shaving does the mystery of a weird transformation touch his heart as with a death cold hand.
If you haven't read this book, go and get it today, and dare you read it alone in your bedroom.