FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE by David Spielmann. Book review

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE by David Spielmann, Spiderwize, p/b, £7.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

This is a rather sweet love story bizarrely spread over a distance in time of 125 years. The writing style is rather heavy-handed which some readers might find awkward and difficult to read.

Then there is the question about the dialects put into the mouths of the characters. This jars from the word go. It is both clumsy and disturbing. It is appreciated that there is a perennial debate among writers on this subject, but the more contemporary opinion is not to define characters in such an inflexible manner. But then, like Marmite, it is all a matter of taste.

Once the reader has navigated these perils, the story has a pleasant character that moves along at a leisurely pace. During the hot summer of 1976 two friends, Dave and Mike set out on holiday in a camper van. Surprisingly they run into fog on the motorway and are directed by the police onto a by-road to avoid an accident. Unbeknownst to them, this pea-souper fog possesses a time-travelling property.

The couple wake up in the morning to find themselves in 1851, having slipped back in time by 125 years. Fortunately, they do not find any dark satanic mills but discover they are in a rural community before the bitter agricultural depression at the latter end of the nineteenth century sets in.  They are taken in by a family which owns a farm, so the tale gently slips into the agricultural routines and social attitudes of an earlier time.

Dave strikes up a relationship with one of the women on the farm, Martha and eventually, they get married. Tragically, not long after their wedding, Martha is killed when the roof of the cow-byre collapses under the weight of snow.

This event loosens their ties to the family, so when the fog returns Dave and Mike contrive their return to 1976 or thereabouts. Only Dave cannot settle down and get Martha out of his mind. Eventually, he returns in modern times to the district where Martha lived. There he discovers Marcia who has a likeness to Martha. Marcia has a sort of dual personality which occasionally switches from Marcia to Martha and back again. The reader is left wondering whether or not this is a case of possession, insanity or reincarnation. At this point, the pace in the novel picks up acquiring a page-turning quality.

In the end, Dave and Martha appear to settle down to live happily ever after. A happy ending is always a delight. This tale is far too harmless for our age. There is potential within the plot for all sorts of diversions, but by making it simple Spielmann keeps the entire project grounded.