The year is 1849 and Edgar Allan Poe, famous and infamous, has disappeared, only to reappear mortally ill. What had he done? The book follows a phantom Poe, viewed through the tinted lenses of his fictional detective, C. August Dupin.The year is 1849 and Edgar Allan Poe, famous and infamous, has disappeared, only to reappear mortally ill. What had he done? The book follows a phantom Poe, viewed through the tinted lenses of his fictional detective, C. August Dupin.Read Less
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Stephen Marlowe's book, Lighthouse at the End of the World, is a fantasy fiction portrait of Edgar Allan Poe revolving around the yet-unsolved mystery of Poe's death. In the first 200 pages of the novel, Marlowe combines historical fiction and fictional biography with fantasy and mystery. Interspersed in an account of Poe's life, narrated in a fairly linear and cohesive fashion by Poe himself, are surreal, fantasy episodes narrated by Poe doppelgangers.
In the final third of the book, there is a sharp break in the already fractured, multi-layered narrative. Fantasy takes over completely as Poe descends into the alcohol, opium and exposure-induced encephalothopy that killed him. C. Aguste Dupin emerges out of the blue to investigate Poe's disappearance and strange illness.
Although this book is inordinately difficult to follow, Marlowe's writing is very beautiful and unique (the adjectives "kaleidoscopic" and "shimmering" come to mind). This book has an overall feel to it which is reminiscent of a Jean Cocteau film. The intrigue and beauty of Marlowe's writing manage to carry the reader through the difficult parts to the final three chapters where Marlowe ties the story together. The ending, by the way, is quite bizarre and surprising.
The most fascinating aspect of this novel, by far, is the metamorphosis in Marlowe's writing between the first few chapters and the end of the book. As the story proceeds, Poe starts to become very much like his own fictional characters. Poe alternately becomes a kind of William Wilson, Arthur Gordon Pym and Roderick Usher. All the while, Marlowe's writing slowly, subtly but surely takes on Poe's distinctive style, complete with elipses, italics, anachronisms and footnotes where the narrator directly addresses the reader. It is very unnerving and effective. Marlowe's masterfully-crafted writing earns this novel a five-star rating in spite of the difficult and complex plot.
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