Wednesday 16 June 2010

We Hear The Dead by Dianne K. Salerni

Pages - 422

Published in 2010 by Source Books.

I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. No one suspected us of any trick, because we were such young children. We were led on by my sister purposely and by my mother unintentionally.
Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions. As Doctor wrote to me:'Weary! Weary is the life by cold deceit oppressed.'
We Hear The Dead is based on a true story about Kate and Maggie Fox who begin playing a prank as children and before they know the prank has got so out of hand, that there is no way they can tell the truth. Kate and Maggie pretend that they can contact the dead. As time passes, more people learn about them and want them to speak to their loved ones, with which their trickery and lies become more and more extreme in order to give the public what they want.
I discovered this book quite serendipitously, Wisteria from Bookworm's Dinner joined a Facebook page promoting this book and I was quite taken by the cover and joined the page too. A few weeks later, the lovely author, Dianne K. Salerni contacted me via Facebook and asked me if I would like to review her book. I jumped at the chance and within a few days a brand new copy arrived at my house via Amazon.
Now I am not one to jump for review copies, but this book really had my attention from the beginning. The title alone had me dying to read it. The book deals heavily with the world of spiritualism which is something that I have a very keen interest in. However, this book shows the lies and deceit that spirit rapping caused in the 1800's. It reminded me a little of The Seance by John Harwood, but I have to say I preferred Salerni's version.
Maggie and Kate Fox are extraordinary characters. Kate,the younger one is very deceitful and goes to great lengths to keep her secrets from being discovered. Underneath though, she is convinced that she is able to communicate with the dead. Maggie on the other hand, is far more pragmatic, and realises that she must keep up the deceit in order to help pay for her family to live. In all the years the deceit continued, their mother never realised it was a trick. She was so wrapped up in their abilities and the praise of others that she never noticed the tricks they played on others. Lea, their older sister was by far, the most devious. Once she realised what her sisters were capable of, she took over the role of manager and exploited them and the people who paid for their services. During that time period, she comes across as a very strong and independent woman of means.
This book definitely had me struggling to put it down, as I was so eager to find out how far they would take their prank. To discover, that they made a lifelong career out of it, is utterly amazing.
I really enjoyed the plot of this book, especially knowing that it was based on true events. The only thing that bothered me was that rather a large part of it was devoted to the relationship between Maggie Fox and Elisha Kane, which although was a heartbreaking story to read, it took the book away from the spiritual side of the story. The book became more about them, than hearing the dead. So it felt a little like two books together, although both sides of the story were well written and in need of being told. I think if perhaps there had been more of a mention of the relationship in the blurb on the back of the book, I would have been more prepared for it. So I would blame the publishers, rather than the author for not giving the true account of the book's content on the cover.
The relationship between Maggie and Elisha would bring a tear to any one's eyes. Elisha held a higher position within society than Maggie and his family never accepted her as his wife. She was treated so badly after his death, it was a wonder she had the will to carry on. She didn't even get to attend his funeral, yet people who did not know him personally were allowed to grieve for him like an old friend.
What amazes me the most, is how well Salerni, as a debut author, has taken a piece of history and created a fantastic page turning novel out of it, yet a Booker Prize nominee does the same thing and creates a load of drivel. I am, of course, referring to The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds, which uses a historical event to create a book, but it was lost amongs the pages. So well done, Diane, you beat the Booker Prize nominees in my eyes.
I truly enjoyed this reading experience and I look forward to read Dianne's next novel. If you have an interest, in spiritualism and are drawn to works of fiction based around the 1800's, then I would highly recommend this book.


  1. I'd never heard of the Fox sisters, but then at BEA I got a book similar to this one, a historical fiction about them called Captivity by Deborah Noyes. I'm very much looking forward to it!

  2. That good, oh, perhaps I should keep my eye out for this one then

  3. Sounds like a very interesting read. I have never heard of the Fox sisters but now I think I would like to learn a little bit more about them. Thanks for the wonderful review. This really sounds like a wonderful story.

    Jennifer @

  4. This is one I remember catching my eye in the Sourcebooks catalog! I went for Picture the Dead instead (similar titles, even!) but this one sounds right up my alley! Great review. And sadly, I don't think the unequal relationship was that uncommon historically. I remember Lord Nelson wanted his mistress treated well by the English, and she died penniless, I believe.

  5. Wonderful review, Vivienne! I really enjoy reading about how spiritualism started and I'm amazed at how popular it was with members of society back then. Have you read Mary Roach's book, Spook? While I didn't love it, it also deals with this in a non-fiction way and you might be interested in that.

    Anyway, I'm definitely putting this one on my list!

  6. Wow, I've never heard of this one before but it certainly sounds very good! Something right up my alley anyway. Great review and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Sounds very intriguing, and wow, do I love that cover image.

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  9. Wow, Vivienne, love your review! I'd never heard of the Fox sisters, so I immediately had to go look them up. Turns out they lived only 30 miles from our home! I definitely think I need to read this book. Thanks!

  10. Oh my gosh, this book sounds awesome - great review!

  11. Not a subject I know too much about, after your great review I'm going to reserve a copy at the library.

  12. Wonderful review, Vivienne. I will keep an eye out for this one. :)

  13. This sounds really neat and I just adore that cover!

  14. This sounds like an amazing book. I have a book about the Fox sisters called Talking to the Dead but haven't read it yet. After reading your great review, I now want to read both books!

  15. Wow. I do like the sound of this. This sounds like one I could really sink my teeth into. Gonna put this on my wishlist. :D




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