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Winner Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2008
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Longlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2011 Shortlisted Best Written Book Blog - 2010

The Library Window – Book review

“The question is,” said my aunt, “if it is a real window with glass in it, or if it is merely painted, or if it once was a window, and has been built up. And the oftener people look at it, the less they are able to say.” -From The Library Window

Margaret Oliphant published this Gothic novella in 1896. I found it through Gaslight – an internet discussion group – which provided the book as an e-text.

The story takes place in Scotland and is narrated by a young girl who is visiting her Aunt Mary. Bored by Mary’s tea parties with her elderly friends, the narrator spends much of her time tucked away in a large window with her sewing and books while she idly listens to the older people talk. When the conversation turns to a window across the street, the narrator’s imagination is inflamed.

Oliphant carries the reader forward with the simple, yet mysterious plot. The reader, along with the narrator begins to ask herself what is real and what is not.

Aunt Mary’s old ladies came and went day after day while June went on. I was to go back in July, and I felt that I should be very unwilling indeed to leave until I had quite cleared up – as I was indeed in the way of doing – the mystery of that window which changed so strangely and appeared quite a different thing, not only to different people, but to the same eyes at different times. – From The Library Window

The story is not just pure mystery, but stimulates some compelling questions about how we see the world – and if our ‘vision’ declines with age. How much of what we see do we interpret correctly?

It is always interesting to have a glimpse like this of an unknown life – to see so much and yet know so little.From The Library Window

A classic tale which reads quickly, I would recommend this book for those readers who enjoy late 19th century literature and gothic mysteries.

To read more about Margaret Oliphant and for links to her vast works, check out this wonderful site.

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