The Quickening is above all a novel of mood. It has a pleasing quality of intriguing familiarity that brings other writers and their works to mind while at the same time setting out its own unique ambiance. As an old-fashioned atmospheric ghost story, the author’s style suggests that of a young Wilkie Collins or a less-ornate Edgar Allan Poe. The feel and theme of the story inevitably bring to mind Henry James’ classic, “The Turn of the Screw.” The isolated house and flat marshy landscape of the setting remind one of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, although Biella’s story is pure horror without the science-fiction elements introduced to such tales by Hodgson. The intelligent cosy conversations between Fairweather and the local medic, Doctor Devonald, echo similar talks between those in charge in the upper-class adventure novels of John Buchan. The creepy spiritualist, Mrs. Marchant, with her dramatic séance (one of the novel’s most powerful scenes) recalls the supernatural thrillers of Charles Williams. In short, The Quickening rests comfortably among the works of some of the English language’s most entertaining writers.
If you enjoy period ghost stories that generate a sustained atmosphere or mood, The Quickening is a feast.