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Review Excerpts

The New Yorker – May 21, 2007
“What at first appears a rather glib ghost story predicated on Victorian clichés of sexual repression and patriarchal tyranny turns into a spectacular, ever-proliferating tale of mingled motives, psychological menace, and delicately told crises of appetite and loneliness. Phillips sustains a pastiche of Victorian writing and ideas with enticing playfulness, and without making his characters or their complex fears and desires laughable.”

Salon.com – April 30, 2007
“The extravagantly talented novelist Arthur Phillips... has produced an elegantly sculpted psychological ghost story told from four different points of view; it's The Turn of the Screw crossed with ‘Rashomon.’ Angelica is... a brief against certainty. Indirectly, the novel tweaks those unsophisticated readers who demand to know what really happened. The horror of the great psychological ghost stories...lies in the fuzziness of the line dividing the supernatural from the simply mad, the perils of the outside world from the dangers lurking within. Phillips grasps and articulates this principle flawlessly.” – Laura Miller

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – April 29, 2007
“The prodigiously talented novelist Arthur Phillips has chosen to create a ghost story that not only takes place during the Victorian era, but one that seeks — with resounding success — to emulate that period's style. Phillips... insists on ambiguity by granting each of the main characters his or her own fixed version of the harrowing events… it is precisely this built-in ambiguity that lifts the novel from a simple ghost story into a meditation on memory, childhood, relationships, society and even Freudian analysis. In the end, Phillips proves that it is the unknown, and unknowable, that remains the most terrifying of all.” – Amy Woods Butler

The Denver Post – April 27, 2007
“Angelica is a step up in achievement, and Phillips' best novel yet. Phillips is spot-on when creating the moody Victorian atmosphere needed to sustain his mystery. And by breaking the narrative into sections, he effectively keeps his readers wondering whom to believe, so that they will remain unsuspecting when one more final turn of his narrative screws reveals that everything - and everyone - isn't necessarily what it (or they) seemed. Angelica is a dark, brooding, multilayered puzzle that expertly reflects upon the complexities of the human condition.” – Dorman T. Shindler

Rocky Mountain News – April 20, 2007
“At their best, [ghost stories] force us to confront the inescapability of the past - and our memory's tenuous grasp of controlling it. Angelica masterfully orchestrates this confrontation, delivering a gripping novel that combines Victorian sensibilities with 21st century concerns about he malleability of truth and the instability of human perception. Angelica deftly manipulates multiple points of view to achieve a complex web of conflicting accounts… This mystery is what gives Phillips' novel its enchanting and chilling beauty. Phillips has written far more than a mesmerizing piece of historical fiction; instead, he's given us a powerful meditation on the ever-shifting foundations of modern identity.” – Geoffrey Bateman

Miami Herald – April 15, 2007
“Delightfully slippery…remarkably assured, dazzling… It's not easy to trust your perceptions of reality in this richly detailed, atmospheric, psychological labyrinth of a novel. Phillips uses four perspectives to flesh out the tale of a family's coming apart amid hauntings and to construct a compelling framework from which to explore the repression of the era, class issues, the morality of science, marriage and the roles of men and women. Phillips builds suspense as skillfully as he reconstructs the delicate language of the time, which in saying almost nothing speaks volumes about sexual anxiety. Phillips won't allow us to know where all the truth lies… but from Angelica we can learn that the worst hauntings arise from our foolish, frightened selves.” – Connie Ogle

Houston Chronicle – April 13, 2007
“There are several high-concept ways to describe Arthur Phillips' intriguing, sometimes head-spinning Angelica. It's a wickedly ingenious deconstruction of a Victorian ghost story, but it's also a whodunit, as well as a what-, when-, where-, how- and especially whydunit. Clues, hints and secrets are nested throughout the novel, including the identity of the narrator…. What makes it work is Phillips' skillful creation of a slightly out-of-focus Victorian world — jingoist, imperialist, class-conscious, riddled with lurking crime and unshakable prejudices, sexual naïveté and sexual predation.” – Charles Matthews

Boston Globe – April 8, 2007
“Arthur Phillips is one brainy, clever, talented writer. Angelica is a combination ghost story, psychological inquiry, and murder mystery... Phillips masters the alternately delicate and overwrought language and conventions of Victorian ghost stories. With a writer as talented as Phillips, we are willing to follow him pretty much wherever his interests take him. Layering four perspectives... raises far-reaching questions about the elusiveness of cause and effect and, especially, certainty.” – Heller McAlpin

San Francisco Chronicle -- Sunday, April 8, 2007
“Angelica turns unreliability into a burning existential, psychological question and an essential condition of the world as we know it. Phillips' prose is polished and neat, with nary a word out of place in his multi-clause sentences. Angelica is a psychological detective story without a detective, one whose characters are too trapped in their own modes of thinking… to grasp their own mental processes, let alone the alien thoughts of others. It is left to readers to fire up their inner Sherlock Holmes and piece together the remains of these shattered Victorian lives into a coherent tale. Phillips may not supply the answers, but he has crafted some elegant shards.” – Saul Austerlitz

Seattle Times – Friday April 6, 2007
“Arthur Phillips' remarkable new novel, Angelica, is…a tale of being haunted... a study of psychosexual struggle... a late-Victorian picaresque about actors-turned-mediums... [and] a profound meditation on the shortcomings of memory, especially memory's unconscious capacity to invent the facts. The novel becomes rich with artfully orchestrated "mirror moments," in which a gesture or word that seemed threatening or unsavory from an earlier perspective appears entirely innocent or reasonable from another… These increasingly incompatible ‘realities’ achieve beautifully dovetailed synthesis in the book's final stretch. Here rigorous craft is in perfect balance with volatile content, resulting in a shapeshifting puzzle-novel with a harrowing soul to it.” – Michael Upchurch

Entertainment Weekly – April 6, 2007
“Phillips’ clever, chilly novel beings as a ghost story: Constance Barton, a nervous Victorian housewife, suspects that an evil spirit is preying upon her daughter, Angelica. Constance, terrified of sex, trances the nighttime hauntings to her husband Joseph’s thwarted libido… She could be detecting something real: she might be totally nuts. Our impression of what is happening changes often as Phillips shifts perspective, illustrating the folly of trying to pigeonhole not just this profoundly troubled marriage, but anyone’s.”

USA Today – April 3, 2007
“A dark and perverse tale that seamlessly mixes psychological disintegration, the dissolution of a marriage and the trappings of a classic ghost story. Angelica is a complex, psychologically complicated novel that dissects childhood traumas and their ability to warp a person's mind and soul. Phillips' third novel... is a culturally authentic masterpiece that transcends its ghostly subplot to spotlight the suffocating and belittling lifestyle of Victorian women. Angelica is bold and clever, its setting rich and provocative. Its unsettling story line unearths deep wells of intense human trauma and deception.” – Carol Memmott

The Christian Science Monitor – April 3, 2007
“Arthur Phillips's new novel Angelica tells the same events from four viewpoints: those of Constance, Anne, Joseph, and the now-grown Angelica. Phillips appears to be enjoying himself, twisting his domestic melodrama ever tighter. He layers Victorian issues about sex and gender with modern psychology and British snobbery, and overlays it all with some truly elegant writing. The shifting perspective keeps readers just off balance enough to keep them guessing.” – Yvonne Zipp

Washington Post –April 1, 2007
“Angelica, Arthur Phillips's spellbinding third book, cements this young novelist's reputation as one of the best writers in America, a storyteller who combines Nabokovian wit and subtlety with a narrative urgency that rivals Stephen King's. The novel... unfolds like some infernally complex piece of origami to reveal an increasingly ominous pattern at the end of each section. [Phillips’s] profoundly unsettling achievement is to demonstrate the terrible hold that childhood traumas have not just on their victims but on those who seek to help them: the slippery and dangerous nature of memory, and the futility of believing that we can ever exorcise a demon when the demon's story is our own.” – Elizabeth Hand

Los Angeles Times – April 1, 2007
“The issue of how to validate any perspective lies at the center of Angelica… Phillips has constructed his novel as a fugue, in which replayed scenes are filtered as if through the consciousness of various primary characters. Phillips' novel reverberates, rather than proceeding in a standard sense, oscillating between male and female perspectives, the supernatural and the natural world, innocence and evil, and generations too. In Phillips' world, the dance of the sexes is more of a death march than anything. A ghost story indeed.” – Art Winslow

The Plain Dealer – April 01, 2007
“Arthur Phillips' new Angelica, explores the gap between public image and private self… His artfully contrived, extraordinarily well-written view of a dysfunctional family resonates in unexpected ways. Phillips scrambles and magnifies his tale by telling it through four points of view. The child's part is the shortest and the one to tie the emotional bow on this barbed entertainment, pierced with such lean eloquence that it plays like the first violin in a late Beethoven string quartet. Readers seeking linearity and simplicity would do well to avoid Phillips' work… Those comfortable with a layered open-endedness, however, should enjoy it, then linger over its intellectually satisfying vapors.” – Carlo Wolff

Bookpage – April 2007
“Arthur Phillips once again proves himself a versatile, elegant writer of immense talent. Phillips does an enviable job of capturing the essence of late Victorian London… The identity of his unreliable narrator is not revealed until the end of the novel, and even once we know who’s telling the story, we’re still not certain which bits of it are true. In the hands of such a skilled author, this type of ending is perfectly satisfying. Comparisons to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw are inevitable, and Phillips’ novel can hold its own when it comes to them. Erudite, dazzling and full of ambiguity, Angelica is not to be missed.” – Tasha Alexander

Minnesota Monthly Magazine – April 2007
“Arthur Phillips explores the insanity of family life in Angelica, a superlative ghost story set in disease-ridden Victorian London. The martial rift escalates along with her fears and ours, as Phillips examines the nature of race class, gender, and desire. Four distinct view points, seen in succession, results, results in shifting perspectives and loyalties. Truth, like love, is elusive. The bestselling author of Prague and The Egyptologist offers the great cabin read of the year—a beautifully written, haunting thriller that will have you fixating on every creak in the floorboards.” – Carol Ratelle Leach

Library Journal (Starred Review) – March 1, 2007
“The award-winning Phillips is a writer of uncommon versatility. Readers can expect to be mightily confused and amused by this ghostly thriller-spoof, which gives Henry James a run for the money. Phillips's control of language and exquisite writing (you are actually transported to the London of Dickens) is worth the price of admission. Highly recommended for everyone who has ever worried that there is a ghost under the bed.” – Edward Cone

Publishers Weekly – February 12, 2007
“Set in Victorian England, Phillips’s impressive third novel uses four linked viewpoints to explore class, gender, family dynamics, sexuality and sciences both real and fraudulent, ancient and newly minted. Phillips captures period diction and detail brilliantly. The multiple-viewpoint narration yields psychological depth and a number of clever surprises.”

Booklist – January 17, 2007
“In a Turn of the Screw-like exercise, best-selling author Phillips expertly depicts the repressiveness of the Victorian era, well attuned as he is to the subtle and dramatic transformation of familial roles that occur when a child is introduced into the family dynamic. Phillips re-tells the same events from four perspectives (a la ‘Rashomon’), revealing just enough information each time to change the reader’s allegiances.” – Benjamin Segedin

Kirkus (Starred Review) – January 1, 2007
“A symphony of psychological complexity and misdirection in four increasingly tricky movements displays the varied wares of the gifted Phillips. Phillips juggles possibilities almost as adroitly as did Henry James in this novel’s likely inspiration, The Turn of the Screw—and he ups the ante in successive narratives. Elegant writing abounds, as do probing characterizations and flashes of wit. An impressive step forward for the versatile Phillips, who continues to engage, surprise and entertain.”
 

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