From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost letters of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.
In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.
Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.
What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.
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The titular subject of the novel is very much woven through the entire story, but the term “seduction” is not so much referring to a sexual seduction as it is a spiritual and psychological one. As Victor Hugo becomes more involved in occultic practices in his home, a dark spirit by the name of Shadow of the Sepulcher tries to seduce him into a spiritual arrangement, whereby Victor’s fatherly pain of losing his daughter would be eased, all the while serving the evil spirit’s dark purposes.
At the same time, Carl Jung’s theories of reincarnation and the “collective unconscious” also play a dominant role in the story. It provides three interweaving time periods, with characters that are all interconnected in various ways. Of course there is the mid-19th Century era, with Victor Hugo, a servant girl named Fantine and the pain they both share over the loss of loved ones. Another time period is the present day, with the perfume artist Jac L’Etoile of M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series of books. Jac and and old friend Theo are both dealing with loss in their lives, and they come together to investigate an intriguing letter that was supposedly written by Victor Hugo himself. Through their research, they hope to resolve many psychological and emotional issues. The final time period featured is that of 56 B.C.E. As with the other characters in the novel, the members of the Druid clan featured in this thread of the story also experience pain and loss that become linked to the individuals in the 19th and 21st centuries.
I found Seduction to be very intriguing, well-written and above all, fantastical. My religious beliefs run contrary to much found in this novel, but I approached the work as if I had been reading a fairy tale. I do not believe in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, but I can play along for the sake of the story. Likewise, I do not believe in reincarnation, but I can pretend that these lives were linked in such a fashion for my amusement. I do agree with Jung that “there are no coincidences”, simply because I believe in a personal God, which comes out of a worldview that is very different from Jung’s. So that aspect of the novel I could certainly relate to, although only to a certain point.
I also appreciated Rose’s depiction of the evil forces at work in the lives of several of the characters. Satan is the ultimate liar and manipulator, and will say anything in order to get us to do his work. Should we succumb to his seduction, we ultimately become his bond slaves in some measure. The more we dabble and deal with him, the worse the bondage will become. Victor Hugo came to see that in his life within Seduction, and saw the foolishness in continuing the séances in his own home. He also fights major temptation with the Shadow, which I found to be very relatable, not because I have a close relationship with evil forces, but because we all deal with one temptation or another every day of our lives. In Seduction, it’s eminently clear how the Shadow is trying to use Hugo for his evil purposes. It reminds us of what we do to ourselves when we allow compromise and sin into our lives, even on a small scale.
As mentioned, Seduction is a part of a series of novels, beginning with 2007’s The Reincarnationist. I have read none of the previous four books, and while M.J. Rose’s content does refer back to moments in previous work, it wasn’t a dominant force that made me feel alienated from the material. Seduction is almost a stand-alone work, and could easily be read by initiates like myself.
I do recommend Seduction, but it would be a qualified endorsement. As a mature adult who is very firm in her Christian beliefs, I was able to read this frequently-engrossing novel with the mindset of someone reading a fairy tale or mythological legend. However, given some of the adult content, as well as the general religious and psychological worldview of the story, it isn’t for all audiences. I wouldn’t suggest it for young readers, those new to the Christian faith, or those strongly questioning these types of philosophies. A novel is not the best place to work out these issues, although they are worthy of questioning. There is actually quite alot of truth to be found here. It just needs to be handled with care.
That important topic aside, I can assert that I found Seduction to be entertaining, educational and even inspirational. It’s encouraged me to look into a quality biography of Victor Hugo, such as Graham Robb’s Victor Hugo: A Biography (as offered by M.J. Rose). And once again, I find myself looking at my beautiful copy of Les Misérables on the shelf. Victor Hugo is a fascinating figure, and Seduction was a compelling way to spend time with him.
About the Author
M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.
Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.
For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You ca n also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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As is mentioned in my review, I don't believe in coincidences. So it was no surprise when an interesting article hit my email box today. Eric Metaxas is a New York Times #1 bestselling author, speaker and former dabbler in Jungian notions. He describes his progression from vague spiritual beliefs to a strong relationship with Christ in a recent article. His thoughts addressed some issues that I thoroughly agree with, but did not have the writing skill to enunciate. Much like the characters in Seduction, he had a supernatural experience (through a life-changing dream), but the difference found in his world is that he was ultimately led to a life of joy, as opposed to the life of bondage that was put before Victor Hugo and many of the other characters of Seduction.
Eric's Spiritual Journey:
Questioning is Okay
Questioning is Okay