Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Crossing the Meadow

by Kfir Luzzatto


Once you're dead your worries are over, right? Not in Kfir Luzzatto's Crossing the Meadow, which explores the world of ghosts. In this visions ghosts inhabit the world alongside people, and they can only pass on to the afterlife beyond this world by crossing a certain meadow, from which no-one returns.

The central character is George, a middle-aged man who has returned to his home town. He's a bit hazy about the details of how he arrived, or even where he is staying at the moment. George is plagued by a nightmare about a body buried underneath a bathtub, and he wants to get to the bottom of this dream. Whilst sitting in a café thinking about his next move he meets Clara Fine, a prostitute.

As you've probably guessed by now, George and Clara are dead and have become ghosts. She helps him to get to grips with his new reality, and he soon finds that they are not the only ones haunting this town. In fact there's quite a community of the dead, some of whom advocate existing alongside the living and refusing to cross the meadow.

For ghosts there is none of the certainty about where to go or what to do with themselves that you might expect. Death has not yet offered them any revelations about the meaning of their lives and their destiny on the other side. If they cross the meadow will they simply disappear? Or will they fade away gradually and lose all hope of salvation if they remain with the living?

Crossing the Meadow is unlike any other ghost story, not merely due to using the perspective of the ghosts. Here we have a group of the dead existing together and often divided in their opinions about the best course of action. They may be free from the needs of the body, but they're kept in this world by their soul's need to deal with unfinished business.

For George and Clara this business involves solving the mystery of George's nightmare, and learning the manner of Clara's death. In Crossing the Meadow the dead don't remember how they died. So it's a matter of piecing together the clues of the past, and provoking the living into revealing those clues. Not an easy task when they have very little control over matter or living people.

Luzzatto lets us into the lives of Berto, Maria and their daughters, the family who are now living at George's old house. The author is very good at intimate portraits of characters, and draws us in through small details that really bring to life the odious Maria and the penny-pinching Berto. This is a gentle tale, not quite a love story but often touching nevertheless. There's minimal sex and violence, and even where it appears it tends to be spoken about rather than shown. This is not a horror, so if you want to read something scary and action-packed you would be better off looking elsewhere.

One of the pleasures of being a ghost is having the ability to spy on people in their homes without fear of discovery. Reading Crossing the Meadow is a little like doing just that, poking into people's lives like a voyeur whilst George and Clara tackle the mystery. If this book has a fault it's the way this secret is cleared up in the end. We do learn something about how Clara died, but more information about why she had to die would have made for a more satisfying finish. In fact there's some ambiguity about the fates of most of the characters. This is sometimes a good thing in that it leaves scope for readers to exercise their own imagination, but some people might prefer a more definite ending.

This is a short, intimate book with believable characters and an original take on the supernatural that will interest anyone who has ever enjoyed a spot of surreptitious people-watching.

Book Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Kfir Luzzatto