Review by Evie Woolmore
Title: A Paris Haunting
Author: Janet Doolaege
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Metaphysical/paranormal
In many ways, A Paris Haunting is a book populated entirely by unsettled spirits, not merely the ghost of the person who has passed over but those among the living left behind, haunted by their own actions. Kay, a translator based in Paris, becomes entangled in the lives of three people — the remnants of two couples whose interconnected relationships have perhaps caused the death of the fourth person — first through a good deed, then by curiosity, and then by her own emotional and psychological involvement. To begin with, Kay does not realize that she has the capacity to help them in more than just practical ways, to help them find peace, albeit through more earthly means than might be suggested by some of the more esoteric themes covered in the book: energy healing, mediumship, psychic ability, synaesthesia.
The Paris setting is thoroughly authentic and will appeal to Francophile readers, and the book has clearly been written by someone who knows the city and France well, and loves it. There is a strong sense of the quirks of the French that might be noticed by an outsider, though despite the characters mostly being French (or half French), there is a slightly English feel to them at times and in the narrative styling too, not least in Kay’s love of drinking tea and the English bookshop owned by one of the characters.
The descriptive writing is very atmospheric though, rather like the characters’ experiences of the ghost, we get only a suggestion of the spiritual dimension of the haunting. The main experiences of the ghost are mediated through the descriptions by the most haunted character, and Kay herself (as the principal though not only p.o.v. character) only senses the presence of the ghost rather than actually seeing it. This has the effect of distancing the haunting, like a story within a story, or grounding it rather strongly in reality as characters keep asking themselves whether they really believe in ghosts. It is as though there is a strongly rational voice somewhere in the background of the novel, as perhaps even the author herself is reluctant to embrace fully the possibilities that the ghost brings, and the character’s echoes left behind in life are at times more tangible than their presence in death. Kay does become a strong advocate for the ghost’s presence, and the key to the resolution of the story, but overall this reviewer felt that there was scope to delve more deeply and engagingly in the esoteric issues covered.
There are one or two themes that also don’t quite reach their full potential in the story – the mysterious illness, the symbolic role of the cat, Kay’s psychic gift – but overall this is an engaging and readable book, which will definitely appeal to anyone who likes a ghost story.