What people don’t pay attention to changes the story.
Springtime, A Ghost Story is a short, nimble and clever novella, which subverts the tropes of the ghost story genre to subtle effect.
Frances is a 28-year-old art historian who admits that much her life has ‘taken place in books’. A year previously, she met an older man, Charlie, who, like her, had a French mother and a complicated childhood. Charlie left his wife and young son for Frances and the two have moved from Melbourne to Sydney for work. Hoping for a fresh start, they are finding that shadows from the past are impeding their new life together.
Frances has never wanted children and is struggling to adapt when Charlie’s son Luke comes to stay. Luke is cruel to Frances’ beloved dog Rod and Frances has noticed that Charlie’s attention seems to be wandering towards a co-worker. To compound her unease, the couple are also receiving eerie prank phone calls. She takes solace in her daily dog-walk through her new neighbourhood and keeps glimpsing a woman and a dog that no one else seems to see, a woman wearing an old-fashioned dress standing in the same spot each day in the middle of a garden filled with lush flowers and vegetation. Is this woman some kind of apparition, or are the inscrutable aspects of her daily life affecting her thought processes?
The woman was there too, under overhanging branches, as silent and white as her dog. Their house merged with the sun in Frances’s mind: it was something else that shifted about and wasn’t always where she looked.
De Krester has crafter a story whose very brevity suits her style of narrative, allowing her to focus on just a few meaningful details to charge Frances’s story with an undeniable tension. This is as much a story about perception as it is about ghosts, and Frances’s inability to pin down the reality of the woman in the garden subtly mirrors her subsequent inability to settle into the reality of her new and complicated life. In a wonderfully realised dinner party scene, which is pivotal to the action, De Krester slyly displays the myriad ways in which we often fail to honestly articulate our experiences, even with those we supposedly know us best.
Her other smart move is to set her ghostly tale within the bright sunlight and lush landscape of Sydney’s spring. Descriptions of flowers feature heavily and all Frances’s supernatural experiences take place in the brilliant heat and light of the day. This gives her tale the feeling of a mirage, as reality shimmers and shifts in unexpected ways.
By bypassing the tropes of the traditional ghostly tale, De Krester has created an ethereal and elegant narrative, and her strangely resonant ending offers an unexpected shiver of fear to this modern day tale.
read on: kindle
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