Review of The Clairvoyants



The Clairvoyants

Karen Brown

Henry Holt and Co.

February 7, 2017

Blurb from Goodreads: On the family homestead by the sea where she grew up, Martha Mary saw ghosts. As a young woman, she hopes to distance herself from those spirits by escaping to an inland college town. There, she is absorbed by a budding romance, relieved by separation from an unstable sister, and disinterested in the flyers seeking information about a young woman who’s disappeared—until one Indian summer afternoon when the missing woman appears beneath Martha’s apartment window, wearing a down coat, her hair coated with ice.


After reading the blurb and having a fascination with paranormal stories, I was definitely coming to The Clairvoyants expecting something different from what I received, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, does it?

There is something dreamlike about the way in which Karen Brown has conveyed this story, a feeling of timelessness. As I was reading, I felt an old-fashioned quality rise, from the use of “old” names like Martha and Delores to the gatherings at Anne’s, where artists and intellectuals met for drinks, and even the drinks were “old” drinks for young people in their late teens and early twenties, martinis, g&ts.

The writing is almost lulling, weaving in facts, alluding to events, hinting. The reader automatically trusts this first person narrator, Martha Mary. She seems misunderstood by her mother and older sisters and she finds it necessary to hide away her “gift” for fear that she will be sent to an asylum like her younger sister, Del.

Martha falls under the spell of a photography instructor who is as obsessed with his photography as Martha is with hers. But she was first led to him by the ghost of Mary Rae.

The magic for me in Brown’s storytelling is likening it to a chunk of alabaster that is being sculpted until the truth remains or at least some understanding of the truth. However, the reader also needs to question the information provided because everything becomes entwined.

While not every detail of the ending is provided on a silver platter for the reader, if they have been paying attention to the way in which Brown provides information, they have a pretty good idea as to what’s happened to whom. I liked the subtlety.

If you like your literary fiction with a taste of mystery and supernatural, I highly recommend The Clairvoyants.

I won an ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

From AmazonThe Clairvoyants

rating: 4-and-a-half (4 butterflies and a ladybug)


6 thoughts on “Review of The Clairvoyants

  1. I’m intrigued. Sounds as though it might be like one of those tales from the 101 ghost stories anthologies I used to order from Scholastica as a kid.

    1. Likewise, I used to read every gothic novel I could get a hold of. But, there seems to be critiques of people either loving and hating this novel and I think it’s because they’re coming to it for the paranormal, but at it’s heart it’s probably a literary mystery.

  2. i am drawn to stories like this and when you write its like a chunk of alabaster i think i get the particular beauty of this book you feel, thank you for sharing your feelings and review.

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