cover_seductionTitle:  Seduction                                                                                  Author:  M.J. Rose                                                                         Publisher:  Atria                                                                                   Publication Date: due out 5/7/2013                                         Format: galley proof                                                                              Genre: adult fiction (historical)

Rating:    Reincarnation and the occult fascinations of the famous Victor Hugo, and how present day lives can bepulled together in a death spiral of destiny by obvious historical connection and not so obvious former life relationships is the daunting topic of this novel.  This is a complex novel where past characters are often more real and better developed than their present day counterparts and the real connections between past and present are tenuous at best.  If however, you are a historical fiction fan, you won’t want to miss the fantastic protrayal of Victor Hugo’s time on the Isle of Jersey.  For The Nashville Reader, though, this was just a 3 out of 5.

Overview (reprinted from  

A gothic tale about Victor Hugo’s long-buried secrets
and the lengths we go to for love…

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, still grieving, Hugo initiated hundreds of séances from his home on the Isle of Jersey in order to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it has been believed… Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L’Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief. In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island’s mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on the Isle of Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles, and hidden caves. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—transcripts of Hugo’s lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find. But what neither Jac or Theo anticipate is that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake. Seduction is a historically evocative and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, written by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists. Awakening a mystery that spans centuries, this multi-layered gothic brings a time, a place, and a cast of desperate characters brilliantly to life.

Review:  I haven’t read The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose, and I think I’m glad.  While I’ve heard that Lost Fragrances is a more hopeful, uplifting story, there is a heavy dose of perfumerie in Seduction.  In fact, Seduction gives the reader the sense of being a book about all the other novels the author wanted to write about.  It has an extremely complex structure, and the characters suffer, because Rose is always having to remind us which of their lives we are in and how it connects to the others.  As a result, the historical characters are painted in much better relief than the present ones, and the reader is left wondering what happens.

On the other hand, the portrait of Hugo on the Isle of Jersey is an amazing feat of creative insight into the personal history of a famous author.  This novella within the novel is well-worth peeling away the outer layers of packed on yarn-spinning.  I had to refrain from skipping ahead to parts in the book that continued Hugo’s story and being thrilled, when I finally got to one.