Book Title: The Friendship of Mortals
Part of Series: The Herbert West Trilogy
Author: Audrey Driscoll
Available at: Smashwords
Number of words (approximately): 154 257
Star Rating (of five): 4
Summary: In this psychological thriller, an innocent man is drawn into a scheme to bring deceased persons back to life. Set in the early years of the last century, it develops from apparently innocent beginnings to a climax of experimentation on unwilling subjects
Extract: (A selection of extracts is given, to illustrate the writing)
- And here is the little door. Insert the key with trembling fingers, and turn. The latch clicks and the door opens, revealing a thin slice of darkness.
Let me pause a moment before venturing inward. Intentions straight? Resolution in place? -
- I lost myself in the overlapping waves of pure sound, unfolding and unfolding around me until I felt myself to be in the middle of a crystal globe suspended in a gulf of sunlight. From the first notes, I was borne upward by the voices, clear sopranos and deep baritones, floating on the sunlit air charged with dust motes. I was more than usually moved, probably because of the strangeness and potential dangers of the things about which West had told me, and the need to come up with an answer for him the next day. -
- We made no promises to one another,
and I. It would not have been in keeping
with what we had been to one another. I was left with hopes, but not
expectations. We walked up and down the platform, talking of trivia. I wanted
this pointless interlude to continue forever, and I couldn’t wait for it to
end. When it did end and the train was pulling away, Alma waving to me through her window, I wished
that I could reverse time, just a little. Was it something like this agonized
desire that drove West in his efforts to reverse death? If so, I could almost
begin to understand his ruthless single-mindedness. Alma
It is always more difficult to be left than to leave. The one leaving has new situations to occupy him or her, new people and places to take in and cope with. The one left behind, on the other hand, has only that which occupied his attention before, but without the presence of those who are no longer there. And in my case there was besides an envy of the new adventures that West and Alma had embarked upon, and which I was unable to. -
- While one of Villard’s assistants packed my purchases into cartons, Villard turned to me and said, “Alchemy is a fascinating subject. Have you read much about it?”
“Not systematically,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I was quite interested in it once. Oh, don’t imagine me with crucibles and alembics. I’m too lazy for that, and too clumsy, if you must know. But there’s a mystical side to it. So many things can be viewed in an alchemical sense. It fairly cries out for analogies. And far from being a dead thing of medieval times, it was practiced, both in the practical and spiritual sense, until quite recently. Maybe still is, by some. And it unites pre-Christian thinking with some of the central mysteries of Christianity.”
I thought about this on the way home. Whether because of my delving into the Quarrington material or for some other reason, I had lately begun to suspect that there were subtle connections between seemingly disparate parts of the world. Sometimes I thought I could hold up two thoughts, as it were, one from the part of my mind that reasoned and analyzed, one from the part that felt and guessed, and see a kind of kinship between them, as though a door had opened between two sealed chambers. -
- Long ago, West explained to me that energy is stored in chemical bonds and that the breaking of those bonds releases it into the world. I wonder if something analogous happens with human experiences, with lives, with relationships. In the seething welter of human interactions, as friendships are formed and broken, as passions are felt and expressed, vast amounts of psychic energy must be released. Where does it go? How is it used? I do not know, but find a little comfort in the thought that some unknown force must control these dynamics, just as the known cycle of organic growth and decay drives physical life. Even as the rotting leaves in Michael O’Connor’s compost heaps sustained the flowers in my mother’s gardens, so perhaps the breaking of the bonds between Alma, Herbert and myself, the hidden turmoils of our lives, the energies released when body and spirit part, in some way served to sustain the eternal mystery. Or so I hope. -
Structure: The book is well structured with an elegant use of the English language.
Content: The story line develops from a desire by a brilliant medical student to find the essence of life, and what occurs when death intervenes. The early partial successes encourage an estranged personality to undertake wilder and more dangerous experimentation. This book is not for everyone.
Reviewer’s Comments: ‘The Friendship of Mortals’ took an unusually long time for me to read, because the language used, quite apart from the story, is a work of art in itself. On several occasions, I felt a need to read a particular sentence or paragraph to my associates and friends. On each of those occasions, the response was of profound admiration for the skill of Audrey Driscoll. This book is a work of art, a lesson in writing. It is a book that I will read over and over, simply for the pleasure that the use of the language gives me.