It has often been said that remembering those who have passed helps to keep them alive. In theory, that remains true, but in a world where we are all constantly inundated with things vying for our attention, there are undoubtedly many things that we overlook or forget, simply as a manner of coping with the multitude of things capturing our attention and it’s in this way that people can become forgotten as no more than a name on a headstone or line in a ledger.
Aislinn Hunter’s The World Before Us follows Jane Standen’s life and her research into the life of a missing girl in Victorian England, which eerily mirrors the other missing girl in Jane’s life, the five-year old Lily that she babysat. While following Jane’s life, there is a group of ghostly memories of those who had a part in the world that Jane is researching whose perspective and thoughts we are also privy to.
The prose was well-crafted and beautiful to read, but I found it rather difficult to follow the narrative as it jumps around in time between current day and Victorian England, as well as perspective between the ghostly group and Jane. This wouldn’t have been as disorienting if the changes in perspective were more well-defined, such as through different chapters instead of perspective jumps in the middle of a chapter and then changing again within that same chapter. I also found it difficult to connect to Jane or any of the other characters–it felt as if they were more stereotype images of characters without much depth to them to allow readers to connect with them. I did find that the concept was intriguing with great potential, even if it fell flat in the execution.
Overall, I’d give it a 2 out of 5 stars.