I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.ELIZABETH: A Novel of the Unnatural by Ken Greenhall
Published by Valancourt Books on April 2, 2017
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Ghost, Girls & Women, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Psychological Horror, Victorian
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“If you were to go into your bedroom tonight – perhaps by candlelight – and sit quietly before the large mirror, you might see what I have seen. Sit patiently, looking neither at yourself nor at the glass. You might notice that the image is not yours, but that of an exceptional person who lived at some other time ...”
The image in the mirror of fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Cuttner is that of the fey and long-dead Frances, who introduces Elizabeth to her chilling world of the supernatural. Through Frances, Elizabeth learns what it is to wield power – power of a kind that is malevolent and seemingly invincible. Power that begins with the killing of her parents ...
First published in 1976, Ken Greenhall’s debut novel Elizabeth is a lost classic of modern horror fiction that deserves rediscovery. This edition includes a new introduction by Jonathan Janz.
ELIZABETH: A Novel of the Unnatural, by Ken Greenhall, was first released in 1976. This new version from VALANCOURT BOOKS includes an insightful introduction by Jonathan Janz. The story centers upon a young Elizabeth Cuttner, who believes that she sees an image of a woman named Frances, reflected in her mirror one day. Frances, she believes, is a witch that died centuries ago.
“Have you ever thought about mirrors?”
“. . . There really is no way to know whether your mirror shows you what others see or what is really there.”
ELIZABETH is a novel that I found startlingly unsettling to say the least. Narrated in the voice of fourteen year old Elizabeth, what was most noticeable was that her “tone” didn’t deviate or show any kind of an emotional reaction, no matter what the topic. Elizabeth could go through the sounds of birds singing, to a sexual affair with a relative in the same manner–each topic was essentially the same in her mind.
“. . . He had never understood that I only have one mood.”
While the sexual innuendoes–never explicit, only blandly stated as matter-of-fact–may seem uncomfortable to some readers coming from a fourteen year old, to Elizabeth, this was simply the way things were. Her sexuality was a “power”, and she wouldn’t hesitate to use it to her advantage.
“. . . As far as I could understand it, love was . . . certainly of less practical value than what I had learned from Frances. Yet those who would scoff . . . would do the most foolish things in the name of love.”
After the death of her parents, Elizabeth goes to live with her Grandmother, Uncle James (her Father’s brother), Aunt Katherine, and their son, Keith. They were quite content to keep to themselves, and although the dynamics of other families were very different from theirs, Elizabeth saw it as perfectly normal in every way.
“. . . We were much as any other family. We saw the need to conceal the truth of our feelings.”
During the time that Elizabeth believes Frances is teaching her to wield an unnatural power, a tutor–Miss Barton, also a relation–arrives to school her on different subjects. Although resentful at this intrusion, the teenager appears as stoic as usual on the outside. In truth, even her internal feelings have a way of reasoning things through into a sense of logic that she can accept as fitting into her own, personal, agenda.
“I think imaginative people create most of the world’s problems, but I saw no reason to warn them of that . . .”
The unflappable, pragmatic view that we get from Elizabeth is possibly the most important aspect of setting the atmosphere in this novel. We are led along, believing that even the most horrific and tragic situations are merely commonplace, and not worthy of more than a cursory study. In my own opinion, this is a great achievement for an author–to not only “tell” a story, but to have the reader virtually “living” in the world they’ve created.
“. . . morality is only simple when you’re judging someone else’s actions . . . “
In this story, I was completely transported into Elizabeth’s mindset–believing in the things that she, herself, believed were happening. Is Frances a real supernatural force, or merely a product of Elizabeth’s cultivated and calculating imagination?
“. . . The powerless always think power is evil . . . “
That is the question that each reader must ultimately answer for themselves.