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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Re-read: The Stress of Her Regard

I've long considered The Stress of Her Regard to be Tim Powers' best novel. However, I read it about 20 years ago, and for the longest time the book was out of print, which I thought was criminal.

Well, the rise of the Kindle meant that such books are no longer out of print and also relatively cheap, and unbeknownst to me, there was a "sequel" (set in the same universe but not with the same characters) out last year, so I bought The Stress of Her Regard to re-read.

And wow, the book's as good as it is now as it was 20 years ago when I first read it. It's a vampire novel, but if you're used to cringing at that term because of what recent teenage fashion for angst is, don't. This isn't "vampire for teeny-boppers". Powers merges the greek myths of the Nephilim, vampires, and then brings in the romantic poets John Keats, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley (yes, he whose wife wrote Frankenstein) into a grand narrative worthy of your time and requiring way too much effort and attention span for the usual vampire crowd.

The story revolves around Michael Crawford, a obgyn who on the eve of his wedding makes the mistake of putting his wedding ring on what he thinks of as a statue. Of course, this turns out to be an invitation to the Nephilim to enter his life, and he ends up fleeing, meeting up with the above mentioned poets who are also haunted by the same type of creatures.

The story then heads into the Alps (and yes, the story is now better for me because I've spent so much time in the Alps and visited Wengen, Kleine Scheidegg, etc) and then Venice. What's beautiful about the story is that like all Powers novels, it ties in with the historical events as well as personas, so you're brought into the life of the romantic poets as well as the events of the Austrian empire in Italy during that time. Powers' take on the tragic lives and deaths of Keats and Shelley has to be read to be appreciated.

What's even better is that Michael and Josephine (the protagonist and female lead) are both "damaged goods", with plenty of baggage and histories of mental disorders. Josephine's a schizophrenic, for instance, and Michael frequently resorts to drinking in order to cope with the horrors the Nephilim have brought into his life.

What's more, the novel's climax is a C-section performed on a guy. Take that, Stephanie Meyer!

Needless to say, this book comes highly recommended. Buy it and read it!

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