|Ghostwalk (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, UK, 2007; Speigel and Grau, Random House, US, 2007)
A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand. The book she was writing about Isaac Newton’s involvement with alchemy—the culmination of her lifelong obsession with the seventeenth century—remains unfinished. When her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book, Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house—a studio in an orchard where the light moves restlessly across the walls. Soon Lydia discovers that the shadow of violence that has fallen across present-day Cambridge, which escalates to a series of murders, may have its origins in the troubling evidence that Elizabeth’s research has unearthed. As Lydia becomes ensnared in a dangerous conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the past, the seventeenth century slowly seeps into the twenty-first, with the city of Cambridge the bridge between them.
Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, of seventeenth-century glassmaking, alchemy, the Great Plague, and Newton’s scientific innovations, Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered involving Newton’s alchemy. In it, time and relationships are entangled—the present with the seventeenth century, and figures from the past with the love-torn twenty-first century woman who is trying to discover their secrets. A stunningly original display of scholarship and imagination, and a gripping story of desire and obsession, Ghostwalk is a rare debut that will change the way most of us think about scientific innovation, the force of history, and time itself.
US Site: ghostwalkbook.com
Listen to Rebecca’s interview with Woman’s Hour on Radio 4
Ghostwalk – Launch
A beautifully written book, mixing a compelling contemporary love story and a fascinating historical investigation, with Isaac Newton and alchemy playing a crucial role. The mystery at the novel’s centre is audacious, convincing, and will make readers think anew about what history is.’
’Stott moves between past and present with the page-turning dexterity of a literary alchemist—a novel of intrigue as cleverly imagined as it is entertaining.’
‘A dangerous love story and mystery, where after a time neither the reader nor the heroine can tell what is true. You slip through the shimmering prose and fall into the alchemy of Newton and certain unsolved crimes of his time until you begin to wonder if what happened then can affect what might happen now. Blending contemporary quantum physics with the winding streets of ancient Cambridge, Ghostwalk is a highly intelligent and original novel.
’An amazing work—a highly intelligent thriller that combines the supernatural with modern quantum theory, the current war on terror with Isaac Newton’s work on light and gravity, and his delving into alchemy in the seventeenth century. At once mind-boggling and mind-expanding.’
‘This daring mystery tangles occult and scientific knowledge with obsessive love and hidden world events. It is wonderfully down to earth, and genuinely eerie. Once in, you are not likely to leave off reading until after the very last twist.’
‘Every cut in the ground elder root is a failure; every cut will make a redoubling of effort necessary. That’s how I came to understand Isaac Newton’s fear of sin, I think, and how embroiled Mr F became in Newton’s name, and how neither of them could stop what they had started, and, finally, how I have come to see the way the consequences of their seventeenth-century acts twisted and turned their way to us, underground and overground, splitting and redoubling. Organic and botanical… Now Cameron Brown, I am starting to tell it again so that I can make you a thread for your labyrinth. Yes, I am putting the seventeenth century back into the picture.’
‘A fire so blue and orange and dense that you could have touched it, which began there is that tangle of bonfire apple wood and the discarded stuff of a woman’s life. Around this blue light, the darkness fell away into shades of grey and brown.’
‘How many times does a piece of paper have to blow away in a windless garden for it to stop being a coincidence?’
‘It wasn’t a benign kind of curiosity, it was something dark and ravenous – ravens scavenging over a corpse, dark, urgent and visceral.’