‘That’s you’, said Stephen Mason when his son Christopher showed him the photograph. But it wasn’t. Though identical in almost every feature, the man in the photograph was a peasant named Baht Way from ‘the Great Land’, a Far Eastern country whose cruel and beautiful landscape stands in contrast to the glittering ‘Great City’ which it borders.
This is the haunting starting-point of Spirit Weddings, a literary detective story that explores the themes of identity, illusion and the influence of the past on the present. Stephen has long been settled in England, but he was brought up in the Great City when it was a Free Port under British control. Could Baht Way possibly be the son of one of his sisters – Pauline, now the self-righteously opinionated wife of a vicar, or poor Tessa, a lost soul who died years ago?
Urged on by Christopher, who has his own reasons for meeting his ‘ghostly twin’, Stephen travels back to the city of his childhood. The facts he uncovers force him to face disconcerting truths about himself, his past and his family, including a terrible act of destructive hypocrisy by someone he thought he knew.
Encompassing the high domestic comedy of a quarrelsome Sunday lunch in the Home Counties and the potent menace of an expedition into a further secret world within the City, Spirit Weddings reinforces Gillian Tindall’s reputation as one of Britain’s finest novelists. She unlocks her sad, shocking, truthful tale with the mastery of pace and elegant precision of an assured storyteller on superb form.