(Image from Goodreads)
Author: Hilary Scharper
First Published: April 2013
Published By: Touchstone
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal/Fantasy
Read: Jan 24 2015
I received a copy of Perdita by Hilary Scharper, from the author in return for an honest review.
Garth Hellyer, a historian and writer is doing research in an Ontario nursing home interviewing its residents for a “Longevity Project”, in search for the oldest person in the world. It is here that he is introduced to a woman by the name of Marged Brice, who claims she is 134 years old. The only document of her existence is a birth certificate stating that she was born on November 13, 1878 in Montreal Quebec. She entrusts Garth with her journals, which take readers back to April 1883, when Marged would have been 18 years old. She was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper of Cape Prius, on the Bruce Peninsula of Georgian Bay. There she lived in a cottage with her father, unwell mother, Aunt and Uncle. No stranger to furious storms, Marged and her family witness several shipwrecks, where the outcome plays throughout the novel. Nearby are two lodges owned by dear family friends; The Stewarts and a Doctor named McTavish, who studies birds. Although much of the book is in the form of journal entries, parts follow the journey Garth takes in his research to discover if the woman who claims to be Marged Brice is indeed as old as she states, what her connection with a famous Canadian artist George Stewart is and who exactly is Perdita. Meanwhile Garth connects with a childhood friend named Clare and we learn of the devastating events he experienced. Coincidentally, their family cottages was located near where Marged lived with her family near the lighthouse many years before.
“Perdita” could be described as part historical fiction, part fantasy, with Greek mythology thrown in.
The style of writing in this book reminded me somewhat of Kate Morton, in the way we are given clues as to the mystery a little bit at a time. When I began to think I had figured out part of the mystery the plot moves on and a different opinion was formed. Nearing the end of the book I began to wonder if readers would ever find out who or what Perdita was. There were parts I found to be misleading and drawn out. Although for the most part the storyline is wrapped up in the end, I felt that there were holes left incomplete. An example of this is the love triangle between Marged, George and Andrew. Perhaps this was intentional by the author, but it left me feeling slightly unsatisfied. I can understand how this might deter readers.
This would have been the case for me, if it weren’t for the wonderful setting. As previously mention this novel is mainly set on Georgian Bay, at the north-east tip of the Bruce Peninsula. A map of the area is included on the first page. Having vacationed up in that area (Tobermory to be specific), I was able to vividly picture the surroundings. As I read I decided to do some research into the area mentioned in the book. I wondered if Marged’s Cape Prius was a real place. I learned that the author based Cape Prius on a place called Cabot Head. I also read about some shipwrecks in that area, that may have inspired those included in the plot. Due to her mother’s illness, Marged accompanies her to Toronto for a winter to convalesce. I was able to recognize many locations that are still prominent in the city today. The historical time period: the late 1800’s, was another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed.
While I love reading historical fiction, I can’t exactly say the same for paranormal or fantasy. As we near the end of the journal entries, it seemed more and more like a descent into madness, rather than something magical in nature, until readers are returned to present day. Although I realize that this book is about Marged, I would have liked to have discovered more of the mystery from Garth’s perspective.
I find that some authors try to make their historical characters, sound more modern. Perhaps as a way of connecting with readers. However this was not the case with this novel. The Victorian language used in Marged’s journal entries felt very believable. As if it were really written during that time period. The vast knowledge of the author Hilary Scharper, really comes across in her writing, especially in the parts of “Perdita” that included Dr McTavish’s ornithology and Greek mythology.
My rating for this novel is 3.5/5 and I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction, paranormal, fantasy and Greek mythology.
I love when a book inspires me to do further research into the characters, plot, time-frame or setting. “Perdita” has inspired me to travel up that way again. It is a trip I hope to make this coming summer and it would make a great topic for “ML’s Bookish Adventures”. A search led me to the website for the Cabot Head Lighthouse. For those interested in learning more about this location, the website can be found at the following links: