Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Autumn People by Ruth Arthur (1973)

Romilly Williams is the second person in her family tree with her name. The first, Romilly's great-grandmother, was known as Millie, and she vacationed on the island of Karasay just once as a young woman and never returned, owing to a strange and painful experience that cost her the love of her life and possibly a piece of her soul as well. The second Romilly has grown up hearing stories about Karasay from Millie's daughter, her Gran, who herself has always wondered about the reasons her mother never joined the family for their island vacations. When Gran and Romilly finally have the chance to visit Karasay, neither realizes the role Romilly will play in finally setting right the wrongs of Millie's past.

This novel is told in a very straightforward way, relating first Millie's point of view in the summer of 1901 and then Romilly's "present-day" (early 1970's) experiences. Though the storytelling is quite linear and ordinary, however, the events of the story are unusual and unsettling. What happens between Millie and a distant relative, Roger, incorporates elements of the supernatural, as does Romilly's journey of discovery toward what happened to Roger and how it affected her great-grandmother. Like When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (1967)The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope (1958), and Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder (2014), this novel shows how the past impacts the future, but also how the future might reach back through time and remedy the past. 

Though The Autumn People is not a Halloween story per se, the title and the involvement of ghosts in some segments of the plot make it an appropriate read for getting into the spirit of the holiday. There is probably not enough actual haunting in this book to please true fans of ghost stories, but for readers like me, who typically don't like to be scared too much, this novel is plenty troubling at points even if it is pretty clear from the outset that there will be a happy resolution.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Ruth M. Arthur's books when I was a kid. I don't remember this one as well as some of the others, and appreciated you writing about it.