Aislinn Hunter || The World Before Us

Two days after having finished The World Before Us, I am still not sure what to think of  it. I suspect the novel is meant to say something important about the consequences of a traumatic episode on a persons life. I find the way Hunter went about it just not to my taste. She has tried to connect two story lines, not quite successfully as far as I am concerned.
Jane, the main character, suffers from a trauma. While going for a walk with Lily the young girl she babysits and Lily’s father William, the girl disappears. Despite a thorough search not a trace of her is found ever again. Jane blames herself for not watching Lily enough, maybe being distracted by the fact that she – a mere 15 year old – is slightly in love with William. At the start of the novel we find Jane at her work: a small museum that is about to close down. William is to receive an important prize there that night and Jane has to confront her fears on meeting him again after all these years. As it turns out he does not recognize the 30-year old standing in front of him. Jane is that upset that she flees from the museum and her life and travels to the place where Lily was lost. There she tries to discover who is N, the mysterious woman who turned up in the archives whilst she was doing her end paper (Jane as it turns out, has chosen a career path close to that of William). In order to do that she has to research papers belonging to a mansion and the neighbouring psychiatric institute. So far so good if not for the fact that Jane is surrounded by the energy of dead people, mostly those people who are in some ways connected to her research of the psychiatric institute. I suspect they hope for Jane to find a clue as to who they are. Though the ghosts tell part of the story and in this way provide information on Jane, they made me left wondering ‘why?’. I found this thing with the ghosts to be too constructed, too far-fetched. Yes, Jane finds clue on who they are, I just did not feel that having them around added anything to the story of Jane or the psychiatric institution. On the contrary it added a layer to the story that made it too contrived. I suspect Hunter added the ghosts to strengthen her message that nothing in life is important enough to have it spoil your life; all that remains is energy without a name or personality. I don’t know, I felt that the link with the ghosts was not worked out well enough. It did not add anything to the novel, on the contrary, it felt like a disturbance. I believe the story of Jane would have had enough strength to stand on its own feet, by adding the ghost element Hunter deprived Jane of a well-told story.

world before us

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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