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The Gate of Air
The Gate of Air is a novel written by James Buchan.
- Title: The Gate of Air
- Author: James Buchan
- Format: Hardcover
- Pages: 224
- Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 184724467X
- ISBN-13: 978-1847244673
- Release Date: September 4, 2008
When mysterious loner Jim Smith moves into remote Paradise Farmhouse, he experiences some strange but wonderful midnight visits from an ethereal woman. He soon discovers that this dream-like figure is the incarnation of a 1960s beauty, immortalized in a famous nude portrait that belongs to his neighbour. Intrigued, Jim abandons his customary aloofness to find out more, and accepts a dinner invitation from his landlords - a billionaire-thug and his beautiful but mistreated wife.The dinner party - a chance for a brilliantly satirical sketch of the braying upper class hunting set - is disastrous and, soon after, Jim's pastoral idyll disintegrates. His lambs die, cows give no milk, bees swarm. Sensing his ghostly lover has turned malevolent, Jim knows he must placate her before the circle of decay reaches those he loves - even if that means making the ultimate sacrifice. Both unsettling ghost story and intense love story, "The Gate of Air" is by turns poetic, learned, satirical and allegorical. This is a beautifully crafted novel about love and loneliness, life and death, and the indelible traces we leave behind us when we die.
The following review can be found at the independent.co.uk link in the External Links Below
- The Gate of Air, by James Buchan
- Spooky or what? Ask the succubus that's haunting Paradise Farm
- Reviewed by Paul Bailey
- Wednesday, 8 October 2008
James Buchan's new novel is a ghost story. It is set in the county of Brackshire, in a rural pile called Paradise Farm on the outskirts of the appropriately named village of Haze Common. Jim Smith, ousted by City financiers from his software company, sees the house and immediately makes an offer for it. The reader senses from the beginning that things are going to take an unpleasant, if not malevolent, turn for the determinedly dull Mr Smith, who seems to have no inner life. He has come to the West Country to escape the stress of London, but it isn't peace and quiet he finds.
So far, so plausible. A country house – with its damp corridors, creaking doors and cracked windows – constitutes the perfect backdrop for a tale of buried secrets and inexplicable visitations. The milieu is familiar, thanks to MR and Henry James, both masters of the uncanny genre. They know how to heap the implausible upon the implausible to the point where it becomes hauntingly convincing.
But Buchan isn't content with old-fashioned storytelling. He prefers to have Jim Smith functioning as best he can in a trance-like state, which is only interrupted by the conversation and behaviour of some well-drawn aristos and farmhands. Jim's confusion becomes ours as the proceedings fail to make anything resembling a dramatic impact.
The ghost – or rather, succubus – here is Jean Lampard, a successful model who disappeared in August 1967. She comes back to tease the new occupant of Paradise Farm, who has availed himself of the services of a dog named Argos. Events get hazier around Haze Common, with the author indulging in some typically elegant digressions. I shan't reveal the denouement, which is not of the spine-chilling kind. What I will say is that Jim remains a blank – a man it is impossible to care for, however much fate has it in for him.
I am a devoted admirer of Buchan's writing, but this book reads like an exercise in the spooky, without conviction or respect for the mysterious. The wonderful, tragically short-lived Shirley Jackson was comfortable with ghosts because she believed in them and gave them and the people they haunted believable identifies. A pall of disbelief is draped over The Gate of Air, and it is of Buchan's own making. His generous heart, so evident in his novel A Good Place To Die, simply isn't in it.