by Patrick McGrath
"For you, passion is a disease. It causes suffering, comes to a crisis, and dies." Fanny Vaughan in Dr. Haggard's Disease (p. 33)
"The setting is a cliffside manor on the English coast in the early years of the Second World War. The narrator is Dr. Edward Haggard, a mysteriously wounded figure racked by morphine addiction and tormented by the memories of his intense affair with Fanny, the wife of his former chief pathologist. Fanny is dead, but when her son, a young fighter pilot, appears in Dr. Haggard's life, the aging doctor finds out how an old passion can turn into a strange -- and dangerous -- obsession." (From the back cover of the Vintage Contemporaries edition.)
A perfect book for a crisp fall evening, a fireplace, and a reader looking for an eerie tale with which to pass the time. Dr. Haggard's Disease moves slowly but deliberately, both literally and figuratively. It's not a book to be rushed though. It's not heavy on plot, but the character of Dr. Haggard is unsettling and foreboding enough to pull the reader through to the end. The story is never frightening or shocking, but it continually keeps uneasy balance on the line of disturbing. Dr. Haggard has not yet lost his mind, but it could happen at any moment.
I love dark, creepy books and while Dr. Haggard's Disease is not as dark and creepy as I had hoped, it has left me more than curious about Patrick McGrath's other books. His writing has a delicately alarming quality that never crosses into the fanciful or melodramatic. I think that style is very difficult to maintain throughout an entire novel, much less an entire body of work. I will be returning to his books to find out if McGrath can do it, or even tries.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!