THE ARROW CHEST by Robert Parry
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical literary, Victorian Gothic
Createspace, January 2011
342 pages, available in Paperback $11.95 and on Kindle
Author’s Website and Endymion at Night
Review copy provided by the author, Thank You!!
Burton Book Review Rating:
London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne – and she with him – until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.
One of my favorite Tudor figures will always be Anne Boleyn. So when a Tudor fan has had her fill of the myriad of Tudor fiction available, what is the next best thing? The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry. Gothic suspense, macabre darkened hallways, bones in an arrow chest. This is how the novel opens up, as painter Roselli is called upon to sketch what is found in this arrow chest, most probably the remains of Anne Boleyn, beheaded queen of tyrant King Henry VIII.
The struggling painter did not particularly enjoy this task, as his favorite past time is painting his childhood friend Daphne. The story then goes on to focus on Amos and Daphne reconnecting during holidays with distinguished English folks, all the while Amos knows that something is just not right with Daphne’s new life as a wife to the churlish Oliver Ramsey. As the story progresses, there are more than a few parallels to Anne Boleyn as we get into more of Daphne’s character. It was played out in a subtle manner though, and only Tudor fans would catch these similarities. Until we got to Oliver Ramsey, who was portrayed just as maniacal as fat King Henry. I appreciated how the author recreated these details without pointing out the fact that Daphne was just like Anne Boleyn, especially since the main protagonist Amos was not an admitted Tudor connoisseur.
Parry’s story is totally character driven from Daphne and Oliver to Amos’ servants. Amos’ maid, Beth, is a strong character as she willingly supports her artistic and eccentric employer even as she wonders if her life as a maid is to be her only destiny. And Amos is constantly seeking knowledge, of which the reader is privy to his musings, of inspirational and spiritual endeavours in many forms which rounded out the driving story of what would happen to Daphne. Would Daphne wind up with the same fate as Anne Boleyn? Would evil Oliver have her shut away in a loony bin because she couldn’t provide an heir? Could Amos save her and allow himself the benefit of her love?
As a Tudor fanatic, I was impressed with the storyline and the way it was written by Robert Parry as he wove the history of the Tudors into the Victorian story of Amos the artist who loves a married woman, who was lucky enough to have the woman love him back. The Arrow Chest imbibes whimsical and mysterious plot lines with Robert Parry’s distinctly descriptive prose. This is a love story channeling the spirit of Anne Boleyn and her tyrannical king, but it is also blended with witty scenes such as revengeful arm wrestling and ghostly tarot card reading scenes. The novel was so pleasurable that I was in no hurry to rush through to the story’s end, perhaps because I feared Daphne would indeed suffer tragedy at the hands of her evil husband just as Anne Boleyn did.
As a self-published author, Robert Parry deserves to be picked up by a major publishing house (and acquire the benefit of a team of editors!). His writing and tone flowed flawlessly, aside from the editing issues. Those readers who are used to the punctuation type errors from advance reader copies like I am would not be disturbed by the errors that are in this copy, but the average reader may be distracted by them. I am editing to insert the fact that after I posted this review that I must have received an earlier edition of the book, as these errors were later corrected in newer copies. I cannot wait for the day when I can think of Robert Parry, “I knew him when…”. Best of luck to him and I cannot wait to get around to reading his previous work, The Virgin and The Crab, as well as anything else he has in that creative mind of his.