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The Victorian Chaise-longue

by Marghanita Laski
Persephone book no:

5 6 7

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A Well Full of Leaves
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A postcard reproduction of the Islington house which is the setting for the book accompanies each copy; commissioned painting by David Gentleman.

ISBN 9780953478040

This ‘slim, brilliant, very scary novel’ (John Sandoe Books) came out in 1953 and is about a young married woman who lies down on a chaise-longue and wakes to find herself imprisoned in the body of her alter ego ninety years before.

It impressed PD James, author of the Preface, ‘as one of the most skillfully told and terrifying short novels of its decade.’

And Penelope Lively described it as ‘disturbing and compulsive’, commenting: ‘This is time travel fiction, but with a difference… instead of making it into a form of adventure, what Marghanita Laski has done is to propose that such an experience would be the ultimate terror… so Melanie/Milly clings to the belief that she is dreaming for as long as she possibly can; the point at which she is forced to abandon this comfort and search for other explanations is her plunge into nightmare.... In the stifling, menacing atmosphere in which Melanie finds herself there is another dark, unspoken theme. Sex. Milly has been in some way disgraced… Once again the chaise-longue is the hinge between the two planes of existence. The site of rapture, of ecstasy – that is the implication…’

This is a short book, almost a novella, but just as powerful as a far longer novel. Persephone also publishes four other books by Marghanita Laski: To Bed with Grand Music (1946), Tory Heaven (1948),  Little Boy Lost (1949), and The Village (1952).

Also available as a Persephone e-book.

An early 1950s fabric: 'shiny cream curtains printed with huge pink roses.'

Read What Readers Say

BBC Radio 3

Very scary.

Harriet Evans on Twitter

It's short. It’s so scary. It’s extremely weird. It’s unputdownable.

nataliestendallwrites via Instagram

A curious, sensual time-travel novella… It’s inspiring how much Marghanita Laski achieves with just 99 pages. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Simon Savidge (blogger)

A small tale where horror meets a sci-fi time travelling edge… “Will you give me your word of honour,” said Melanie, “that I am not going to die?” Almost from the very first line of ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ by Marghanita Laski gives you a sense of foreboding and the impression that this is not going to be the most settling of reads. At some unnamed time around the late 1940’s/1950’s we find Melanie in bed after recently suffering from a particularly bad bout of TB, an illness she had mildly before the ill advised birth of her son, which has led her to being in bed for such a prolonged period of time. However the last test results have shown some signs of recovery and so, as a treat, Melanie’s doctor has agreed to let her be moved to a more engaging part of the house where she may get more sun and fresh air yet must be able to rest. So Melanie finds herself in one of the parlour rooms on the chaise-longue that she bought, spur of the moment, on an antiques shopping trip when she should have been looking for a cot. Yet when Melanie wakes from a sleep on it she finds herself not in her home but somewhere quite other, somewhere in the past, and as someone else far weaker than her though also in a consumptive state. And so the confusion and terror begin…… A genuinely oppressive, confusing and claustrophobic tale of time traveling terror. The more and more I have thought about this book, the more of an understated masterpiece it seems.

Categories: London Science Fiction Teenagers (books for) Thrillers Victoriana

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