Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Uncle Bijah's Ghost by Jennette Lee (1922)

Jennette Lee (1860/1-1951) (also going by Jennette Perry Lee and Jennette Barbour Perry Lee) was a teacher of Philosophy, Rhetoric and Composition and later teaching courses on Criticism. She married clergyman Gerald Stanley Lee. That is the extent of the relevant information I could really find about her, not even a single photograph. I do know that her novel "Simeon Tetlow's Shadow" was adapted into the 1918 silent film Ruler of the Road, which may or may not have become lost since then.

Uncle Bijah's Ghost starts out promising: with the arrival of the late Abijah Bowen's distant relations, coming to take up the place after his death. There are strange rumours about the house and the way he died. Phoebe, the eldest daughter of Phineas Bowen, finds herself confronted with feelings and experiences that she can't explain and there is a genuine atmosphere of rising dread as we learn more about Old Bijah.

However, at about two thirds of the way through all this action grinds to a halt and we have Phoebe's father going on a lengthy diatribe about elementals and mental impressions on objects, accidental telepathy and whatnot and it effectively kills the whole atmosphere of the piece, so intriguing before, as we never have any of the previous mysterious and supernatural events recur and instead the last pages of the book are taken up with a "Treasure hunt", which amounts to digging below the one tree directly facing the house to find it. There's a momentary discovery of a large metal object and one hopes that some sort of sinister twist would be involved, but apparently all it is is something that has even more money in it.

I'm not sure why the author decided to throw the entire plot overboard, but I honestly can't say it had any positive results. The book's ending seems a tad sudden too, as Bijah's old house maid is brought into the story more then halfway through to do basically nothing, and the younger children are almost completely incidental to the proceedings.

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