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BOOK REVIEW: Angelica by Arthur Phillips


In 1880s London the Barton household is in chaos. Four-year-old Angelica has been moved out of her parent’s bedroom by her father, causing a great deal of anxiety for her mother. Angelica was born after multiple miscarriages and Constance has been warned by doctors that any further pregnancies will be fatal.

Fearing that Angelica’s banishment will lead to a return of marital relations, Constance is torn between anxiety for Angelica and herself. When the inevitable happens and Joseph exerts his rights, Angelica begins screaming for her mother. An apparition appeared in her room and Constance worries that her daughter is being plagued by spirits. In desperation she seeks out Anne Montague, a spiritualist found by her housemaid.

Is Angelica being haunted or is there a more rational explanation for what is happening in the Barton household?

Arthur Phillips’ new novel Angelica is psychologically complex. Told from four separate and unique viewpoints, each new section adds confusion, misdirection and surprises in the tradition of the best Victorian novelists. Phillips explores class, sexuality, spiritualism, gender and the developing understanding of psychology and science. At its best, Phillip’s writing brings alive the Victorian era.

Unfortunately Constance’s section is weak compared to those of Anne, Joseph and Angelica and it occupies almost half the novel. Only once the narrative moves to Anne’s perspective does the novel gain depth and momentum. Readers should not give in to the temptation to give up on Angelica, the second half of the novel more than makes up for the slow initial pace.

ISBN10: 1400062519
ISBN13: 9781400062515

352 Pages
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: April 3, 2007
Author Website:


posted under fiction
One Comment to

“BOOK REVIEW: Angelica by Arthur Phillips”

  1. On May 20th, 2007 at 11:34 pm candyschultz Says:

    I didn’t find the first half to be slow. I did think the psychiatrist at the end was intended to be Freud himself, however, based on the dates, the age of the patient at the crisis point, etc. Did you have the same feeling?

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