Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine


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This book was recommended to me by my mentor who read it when it was first published in the eighties. She felt reading this might help in the book I am currently writing.

At 760 pages long, and another 60+ pages added in 2011 for the 25th anniversary edition, the book is so long it took me almost 5 weeks to read. I had wanted to give up but it is only fair to finish the whole book if I want to do a fair review.

The story, set in the eighties, before the invention of internet, GPS, emails and mobile, brings back certain nostalgia I find fascinating. Imagine travelling to Wales from London with a paper map, it sounds so romantic somehow. Anyway, Jo, a freelance journalist and a skeptic, is hypnotized for an article and found herself regressed to 800 years ago as Lady Matilda of Hay. And so, the story ding-dong back and forth as we read about the life of Lady Matilda from the time that she was betrothed to the cruel William de Braose during the reign of King John, who also fancied her to the time of her death.  Matilda, in turned, is in love with Richard de Clare.

To Jo’s horror, all three men from Matilda’s life have also returned to the twentieth century to seek Jo out, except not in the order as Jo would have preferred. Nick, whom she loves but was betrayed by him, is King John. His brother, Sam, who first hypotised Jo when she was a student, is William, and the photographer Jo works with is Richard. And believe it or not, all three men have clear memories of who they were in thirteenth century and am back to either win Jo’s love or seek revenge.

To be able to continue the historical story, everybody Jo meets are able to regress her, even Nick, with no training. In the end, Jo could even self-regress. She finds herself going insane yet she goes back again and again, as if the regression will cease with the death of Matilda, which it did with the ending of the earlier edition.

Horrors for readers, in the new edition, Matilda returns as a ghost in 2011 to torment Jo, William returns in Nick and her son, Harry, which thankfully is easily exorcist by a priest.

I checked out the review in the internet and true enough, despite receiving four stars out of five, the first ten reviewers only gave the book one to two stars. Some who had enjoyed it in the eighties couldn’t understand how they could have liked it before.

Skepticism aside on the hypnosis and regression portion, I am fascinated by the fusion on Christianity and reincarnation, which I thought never the twain shall meet. After all, Christians believe in heaven and hell after death, while Hindus and Buddhists explain it by reincarnation. Yet no one questions this belief system and accepted the reincarnation naturally in the book.

Unlike some books who have transcend time and remain classics,  I believed the book, which was well received in the eighties, failed because readers cannot empathize with the protagonist and her agenda in the twenty-first century. A level of maturity in the readers also finds the book unbelievable because almost everyone has the ability to do hypnosis and regression. Besides, one also can’t help noticing the amount of liquors consumed by everyone in the book. Is it no wonder they appear insane?

That aside, my purpose was to learn POV from the writer but instead, I found her POV as bad as mine, which my mentor remarked that it could be done by a mature writer, just not me. In the end, through earnest reading, I discovered an editorial mistake, which I somehow find very common in the books I read nowadays.

In summary, you can skip reading.

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About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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