Spirits, mystery and love from Evie Woolmore

Let’s review  Equilibrium by Evie Woolmore…

If there ever has been a formula to nail the reader’s imagination at the start of a novel then Evie Woolmore achieves this with Equilibrium, as her early twentieth century character, Martha Collett, stands on the wharf steps contemplating throwing herself into the murky Thames.

There follows an unfolding of what I can only describe as a “fine yarn” where spirits, mystery and love waver around the lives of the distressed ex-maid and her sister Epiphany, who now make a living from performing séances at the kindly Mr Bilk’s London theatre. Indeed, the novel’s beginning smacks of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus with wonderful larger-than-life characters who have the reader rooting for them. The novel departs into the world of the gentry, indeed the household where Martha has served (and become pregnant by the master of the house), and becomes an eclectic mix of mystery, intrigue and social commentary, together with an examination of beliefs with regard to the “other world”.

The novel’s structure is meticulous, but there are times when the mostly beautiful prose trips itself up and becomes clumsy or confuses the reader, and there are some inconsistencies of voice. However, the overall pace is good, and there was never any point where I felt that I couldn’t finish the read, though sometimes it slowed to a point where I thought that some further edits could be beneficial – a few “murdered darlings” to join the spirit world of the publisher’s desk. There are touches of humour too, although the climactic scene lurches dangerously from crisis to flavours of farce.

In Equilibrium, Evie Woolmore has conjured a pot-pourri from the magician’s hat, examining themes ranging from feminism to the Boers in South Africa. I just wonder if she has tried to include a little too much – the book is a long read, and mostly the reader has to work to follow the intrigue, but if you’re prepared to do that, it’s certainly worth the effort.

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