Sylvie never called them ghosts, but that’s what they were—not that George ever saw them herself. The new girl, Sylvie, is like a creature from another time, with her old-fashioned leather satchel, her white cotton gloves and her head in the clouds. George watches her drift around the edge of the school playing fields, guided by inaudible voices.
When George stands up for Sylvie, beating back Tommy Payne and his gang of thugs, it brings her close to the ethereal stranger; though not as close as George would have liked. In the attic of Sylvie’s father’s antique shop, George’s scars will sing and her longing will drive them both toward a tragedy as veiled and inevitable as Sylvie’s whispering ghosts.
The Attic Tragedy is short but powerful tale exploring coming-of-age and a gender diverse society that is unwilling to accept George, the protagonist for themselves. Only the strange, waif-like Sylvie who’s father owns an antique store befriends George. The allure of Sylvie is her seeming eternal sadness but acceptance of life and especially her claims to hear the voices of ghosts from the antique objects she touches.
Mesmerised by this different and dreamy girl, George’s requited love slowly turns sour as the years pass and Sylvie tries to be less like her true self while George embraces their own gender diversity. A bond forms between Sylvie’s father and George as they mourn the loss of the Sylvie they loved. In the end, George must confront the path Sylvie had chosen and finds themselves more and more of the periphery of her life while she has remained central to theirs.
Ashley-Smith crafts a beautiful, sad but engrossing tale that resonates strongly with honesty and integrity. The eerie supernatural background to The Attic Tragedy brings a quality of otherness and a sense of belonging in a liminal space- the protagonist is neither one thing or the other. The object of their affection is interwoven into the supernatural fabric until – when pulled free from it – there is a sense of loss and especially identity. Slyvie is not the woman her father or the protagonist remember. Ashley-Smith tells a stunning tale of loss, memory, pain and coming-of-age amid a shifting society and as the protagonist finds the transformed Sylvie is more like a faded, ghost of who she was, the sense of loss is profound and far-reaching.
A short but stunning coming-of-age tale, a gothic delight with supernatural themes woven throughout and a profound and powerful read. Highly recommend!!