A HAUNTING AIR by Barbara C. Freeman


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The haunting air, sung over and over again in this quite satisfying ghost story, is an old English lullaby, and the singer is a lonely little spirit named Hanny Cole. First heard by teen-age Melissa in the garden behind Cranehurst where she and her author-father lease rooms, the ghost is also no stranger to their next-door neighbors, young widowed Helen and her inquisitive infant son, Bobson, who rent a modest home built on the site of the old Fairmead mansion. As it turns out, the melancholy crooning is meant for the baby, and from old newspaper clippings of the 1880s, a hatbox full of toys, a packet of letters, and a climactic confrontation with the ghosts of Hanny and her mother, Melissa and Helen are able to piece together Hanny's sad history: the neglected illegitimate daughter of a Fairmead housemaid, Hanny was always cared for by the owners, the Webb family. But Mrs. Webb died after giving birth to a stillborn child, and grief-stricken Hanny died soon after of pneumonia, still waiting for a baby to love and look after. The climax in which Melissa fights off the vengeful ghost of Ada Cole, thus allowing Hanny to stay and sing for little Bobson, is somewhat shrill and discordant considering the low key of the rest of the story, but the counterpointing of past and present is handled skillfully, and the evocation of late-Victorian England rings true.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton