Wednesday 7 February 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Spaces in Between - Collin Van Reenan

There is Truth and there are Lies; there is Fiction and there is Fact; there is Life and there is Death.

And then there are the Spaces in Between.

Paris, 1968. Nicholas finds himself broke, without papers and on the verge of being deported back to England. Seeking to stay in France, Nicholas takes a three-month contract as an English tutor to the 17-year-old Imperial Highness Natalya. It is the perfect solution; free room and board, his wages saved, and a place to hide from police raids. All that is asked of Nicholas is too obey the lifestyle of the Victorian household and not to leave the house's grounds. It should have solved all his problems...

The Spaces In Between details the experience of Nicholas as he finds himself an unwitting prisoner within an aristocratic household, apparently frozen in time, surrounded by macabre and eccentric personalities who seem determined to drag him to the point of insanity. Much deeper runs a question every reader is left to ponder - if this tale is fact and not fiction, then what motivation could have driven his tormentors?

What did I think?

Before I even talk about what I thought of the book, I have to say that the cover of The Spaces in Between is absolutely magnificent.  At first glance, I just saw a Venetian style mask but on looking more closely I noticed the skeleton underneath and then my eye was drawn to the amazing detail of the mask itself.  The whole story is told in this mask so it's worth lingering a little longer on the cover before diving into the book.

It is clear from the preface that this is an unusual book.  The preface is written from the point of view of Marie-Claire, a doctor of psychology.  Newly qualified, Nicholas is her first patient and he has given Marie-Claire permission to publish his story.  A story that is so unbelievable, I had to keep reminding myself it was true.  It is the truth as Nicholas remembers it in his bewildered state after his escape from the house.

Even before a chapter was named Danse Macabre I had the memorable piece by Saint-SaĆ«ns playing in my head and I think it would be the perfect theme song for this book as Nicholas is manipulated and manoeuvred into place like a puppet.  He is powerless to resist the charms of Natalya, the Russian princess he is employed to teach, and her guardian, Madame Lili.  As his stay in the house lengthens, Nicholas starts to see figures in monochrome including Russian soldiers in the library and a family walking in the garden.  Only one member of the family is in colour, the mysterious Tatiana, but only Nicholas can see her.

I loved the format of the book with Marie-Claire talking about her patient, Nicholas.  It gives a level of credence to the story that could very easily be mistaken as fiction without such endorsement.  I was fascinated and intrigued from start to finish and it felt so very psychedelic at times that I think I will need to read the book again to appreciate every little nuance.

It's an astonishing true story, written so very vividly that you can easily picture each scene, both monochrome and technicolour, in your mind.  Scenes of life in colour, scenes of death in monochrome but what colour are The Spaces in Between?  A very enjoyable read with dark gothic undertones and trippy psychedelic moments that make it impossible to separate fact from fiction, leaving the reader limited only by their imagination.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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