The Lost History of Dreams: A Novel (Paperback)
A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets from the past that may hold the key to his future in this “sensual, twisting gothic tale…in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights” (BookPage).
All love stories are ghost stories in disguise. “This one happily succeeds at both” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained-glass folly set on the moors, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams.
However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights.
As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so too does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since a tragic accident three years earlier and the origins of his morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t...things from beyond the grave.
Blurring the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death, The Lost History of Dreams is “a surrealist, haunting tale of suspense where every prediction turns out to be merely a step toward a bigger reveal” (Booklist).
About the Author
Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers. Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband and their daughter.
"There is a Scheherazade-like structure to Isabelle's tale, and the haunting beauty of the love story makes Ada and Hugh come alive as characters. As in many gothic stories, the moldering old house that represents family tragedy is a fitting, creepy backdrop to the mysteries of the past. Waldherr avoids cliché in her rich descriptions and hints of supernatural presence that never cross into melodrama. Additionally, while most gothic tales offer only darkness and tragedy, a surprising amount of light and joy imbues the ending here. Fitting, perhaps, for a novel that uses stained glass as a symbol for heavenly possibility, even in the face of death. Waldherr writes that 'love stories are ghost stories in disguise.' This one, happily, succeeds as both."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Waldherr’s gripping debut mystery takes its inspiration from gothic-romance classics like Wuthering Heights…Waldherr plays with gothic tropes, from the plot devices of misty moors, unexpected fires, and uncovered letters to the gendered conventions of tragic romance. The novel builds into a surrealist, haunting tale of suspense where every prediction turns out to be merely a step toward a bigger reveal.”
“Kris Waldherr delivers an accomplished debut novel, The Lost History of Dreams, an atmospheric and hypnotic love story that not even death can end… a sensual, twisting gothic tale that embraces Victorian superstition much in the tradition of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; the mystery is slyly developed, while the love story is tastefully titillating.”
“[A] tense, atmospheric and sensual Gothic thriller.”
Wuthering Heights meets Penny Dreadful in Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams, a dark Victorian epic of obsessive love, thwarted genius, and ghostly visitations….Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor." --Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network and The Huntress
— Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress
"THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS refuses to be categorized as anything other than excellent. Within the framework of a gothic, Kris Waldherr confronts our ideas about love, grief, poetry, and the nature of storytelling. With skillfully nested stories, Waldherr has done the remarkable, rendering the ephemeral into something real and tangible. Brooding, romantic, and thoughtful, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a rare bird in that it shines throughout with wit. I loved every page of it."
— Erika Swyler, bestselling author of THE BOOK OF SPECULATION
"Reminiscent of du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a complex, haunting and deeply absorbing historical novel that is sure to delight fans of classic Gothic fiction. With luminous prose, stunning poetry and a fascinating cast of characters, Waldherr weaves a wonderfully atmospheric tale. Not to be missed!"
— Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME and THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S DAUGHTER
“In THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS, Kris Waldherr delivers a novel of haunting mystery and passion reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and Byatt's Possession. Layered within the pages of this gorgeous gothic tale is a story of several loves, each masterfully wrought in dazzling, poetic detail that will leave the reader longing for more."
— Crystal King, author of FEAST OF SORROW and THE CHEF'S SECRET
"In this accomplished debut, Kris Waldherr transports the reader to the fascinating world of Victorian England and its tradition of post-mortem photography with a deft hand. An atmospheric tale of lost love, family secrets, and an inquiry into how our own histories define us, I relished every poetic page. Mesmerizing, lyrical, and deliciously brooding, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a terrific contribution to Gothic literature."
— Heather Webb, international bestselling author of LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS
"The Lost History of Dreams plunges the reader into a sumptuous feast for all the senses. Through the perspective of a very Victorian yet empathetic male protagonist, Waldherr cleverly depicts the confining roles women of the era were forced to play. This creepily delicious tale will rob readers of their sleep as it asks and answers its own question: "'How can there be so much beauty in this world amid so much sorrow?' The only solution was to create more beauty." With this novel, Waldherr has done exactly that."
— Clarissa Harwood, author of Impossible Saints and Bear No Malice
"Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams is very aptly titled, as reading this novel feels indeed like entering into a dream, one from which I have yet to fully awaken. With beautiful prose and poetry, Waldherr weaves a darkly seductive Gothic tale of love, art, death, and obsession. You'll want to keep reading this one late into the night."
— Alyssa Palombo, author of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel
"Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams is an exquisitely crafted literary gothic. With its labyrinthine twists and turns, it evokes the dark mysteries of the classic Victorian ghost story in all its brooding, atmospheric glory. A riveting, addictive read. Sarah Waters fans will be entranced."
—Mary Sharratt, author of Ecstasy and Daughters of the Witching Hill
"The Lost History of Dreams is a dark, shimmering gem of a novel, glittering with love lost, secrets kept, and long-buried truths revealed. Wonder, memory, death and passion haunt every page of Kris Waldherr's powerhouse Gothic debut."
—Greer Macallister, bestselling author of The Magician's Lie and Woman 99