Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
From the publisher:
"On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking. And The Witching Hour begins......"
Like J.K. Rowling and Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice has that magic touch that just draws me into another world, another era, where, like a wizard, she mixes up an intoxicating brew of witchcraft lore, wicked tragedy, and gothic romance. We are introduced to the great dynasty of the Mayfair witches beginning in the seventeenth century Scottish Highlands, and follow four generations through Europe, the lavish Maye Faire plantation in Port-au-Prince, Saint-Domingue, to a decaying antebellum mansion in New Orleans and present-day San Francisco. Each generation is haunted and tormented by the powerful and seductive being, Lasher. Beginning with the beautiful Suzanne, the Queen of the May Fair in Scotland, and ending in the present-day with Dr. Rowan Mayfair, renowned nuerosurgeon and healer, will they be able to break the evil spell that binds them tragically to Lasher?
I first read The Witching Hour in 1990 when it was first published and absolutely loved it for its rich, historically accurate depiction of life in New Orleans. I often wonder if readers who were not born and raised here would notice the wealth of details Anne Rice includes in her writings, from architectural depictions, accents, street names, pronunciations, neighborhoods, schools and churches, cultural celebrations and traditions, social commentaries...things that are unique to our city but completely ordinary in our way of life. She is a master of seamlessly weaving historical detail and plot.
On this second reading, I noticed interesting details that are also part of the Outlander series that I so enjoy reading. The second part of the novel is devoted to the history of the Mayfair witches as documented in files by the secret Talamasca organization....their motto is, "We watch.....and we are always here." For example, in describing the origin of the Mayfair witches and their connection to Lasher, we learn that it all began in a circle of standing stones while celebrating an ancient pagan feast:
"To which they explained that the people of Highland villages were most attached still to the old customs, and that on the eve of May 1 they built great bonfires in the open grass, these being lighted only from the needfire, and they danced all night about the bonfires, making merry."
"Out into the field we went, feeling for the stones before us, and finding the very middle of the circle and standing stock-still in it to feel the wind...I heard the humming as she held my hand; then in a circle we danced together, making small circles round and round as we did. Louder she hummed and then the Latin words she spoke to call the demon, and then flinging out her arms she cried to him to come."
Her writing is enthralling, guaranteed to make you go deep into yourself and examine your own values and truths....highly recommended!
Title: The Witching Hour
Author: Anne Rice
publisher: Random House