The Case of Aleister Stratton
Having just read the novel 'The Case of Aleister Stratton' the first thing I would say is, expect the unexpected. This is a unique, enigmatic, dark and thought-provoking work by Kate Barnwell. It examines the powers, the possibilities, the dangers of the subconscious, evoking strong, sometimes sinister images. Carefully crafted and presented. Well worth reading!
William Bell, ceramicist and writer
I was instantly intrigued the moment I saw the cover with its old fashioned typewritten font. Before opening the pages I was reminded of the occultist Aleister Crowley, due to the unusual spelling of the name, so I was anticipating a dark, twisted tale, and that, I am pleased to say is what I got. The premis of the story is what it would be like to wake up one morning, believing that you have committed a murder. Is it a dream, or is it reality? The mind is a powerful organ, but just how powerful can it be?
Little touches such as the novella being "compiled" rather than "written by" appealed to my strange sense of nostalgia. (My friend once called me a Victorian throwback because I told her that tea comes from a teapot, NOT a Tassimo!)
The Case of Aleister Stratton is something of a revelation. I've not read anything like it before. Kate Barnwell is known for her poetry, and that is clearly evident in her prose. This is a novella full of poetic imagery; you get swept away with words which create a painting in the mind. Maybe I enjoyed the tale because it appealed to my antiquated sensibilities, the words painted a bygone Edwardian era. The details and imagery of the mother's bedroom were exquisite, you were transported into the room, as though you, the reader, were actually walking around in it. You could imagine being able to pick things up from the bedside table. I half expected Sherlock Holmes to appear to tell me the game was afoot!
"Something has been done, but not as I thought"
Aleister believes he has killed his mother and his sister, he confides his dreadful crime to a professor of English Literature, turning the poor man's life upside down. It is compelling reading. Are we voyeurs of a horrific crime, or are we just seeing into someone's vivid imagination? This drifting between Aleister's conscious and unconscious mind makes intriguing and compulsive reading. This is no ordinary crime novel. It mixes the Kafkaesque disturbed mind with the eloquent language of Edgar Allen Poe. It looks at the darker side of life, the bleakness of human nature, questioning why we do the things we do, whilst interweaving the beauty and complexities of the English language.
This is a book which warrants the readers attention, so curl up in your favourite chair and be transported to a bygone age. Once you have picked the book up, you won't be able to put it back down.
Sioux Rogers I'm Blathering Now
Speculation about the mind being able to move objects, influence others, and create a reality outside of human experience is the stuff writers use to great effect in novels deemed science fiction or fantasy or simply weird. The one thing we know is that the mind is complex. The little connectors in our heads fire off minute bits of information every micro-second within every second.
In The Case of Aleister Stratton, author and poet K.G.V. Barnwell explores how our dreaming selves may influence the course of our waking lives, especially when the dreams are devilishly bent toward revenge and retribution.
Barnwell sets the premise by identifying herself as the compiler of the story, not the writer, a reporter of events, a chronicler of someone else’s intriguing tale, one that could be told in the chill night of Edwardian England or in the modern era.
The story’s tone and style evoke a haunting aura not unlike that of Edgar Allen Poe, another poet with a penchant for writing about the bleaker side of human nature. The scholarly professor who becomes part and parcel of the ominous adventure enters into it uncertain about what he will learn and baffled by his own acquiescence, a willingness or curiosity to know why (or if?) Aleister Stratton did what he said he did.
How that revelation lives on after the Professor’s retirement causes the reader to wonder just how powerful the mind can be, and the consequence of unleashing that power. Do dark dreams lead to dark outcomes? Ask Professor Harold Richard Holland, the inheritor of the tale. He can tell you.
Sharon Vander Meer One Roof Publishing
The Case of Aleister Stratton is the perfect story to cosy up with on an armchair with a blanket and devour in one sitting. Its gentle pacing, bewitching imagery and mysterious ambience makes you feel like you are reading a real memoir at times. I very much enjoyed the stories multi-layering and its questioning of reality, memory and the subconscious. The wonderful descriptions of Hastings also served to conjure a pleasing sense of nostalgia. Thoroughly recommended.
K. Barnwell's debut novel takes me back to the 19th century in style. Her descriptive power is both intense and mysterious and difficult. She contours words and plot. I am reminded of Edgar Alan Poe. This is a young writer to watch. Mark her words.
Tim Woodward, actor
The life of an introspective, genteel professor of English literature is turned upside down when he unwittingly finds himself the confidante of a student who involves him in a dreadful crime. Or is it really a crime, or a horrific creation of his imagination?
We are transported straight into the scene; whether we fall in step on a nerve-wracking trek in the London streets at night - " It was a thick, smoky cold night; breaths of air were sharp and scratchy on the throat", smell the warm apple crumble as the professor and his wife enjoy evening tea in their cozy home, or watch in horror as Aleister calmly executes his plan. The sense of place is raw, and all the more believable because of its ordinariness.
Suspense - yes. But more than just a mystery. A marvelous tale that spins the reader into the machinations of a disturbed mind. What are we capable of? Are we who we seem? The author weaves a tale of time and place, psychological uncertainties, and apparent depravity. And yet there remains a redeeming thread of hope.
I loved the way Barnwell's extensive knowledge of literature and poetry wove an intricate thread throughout the book that adds an eloquent circle of language that ever so surely draws us to the conclusion.
I enjoyed the book. I love all of the literary comparisons, quotations and setting of the stage in each of the story parts. Whether it's the view of the Thames as the train leaves the station in London, the bedroom belonging to Aleister's mother, or old town Hastings, each place comes alive in the gifted hands of this writer.
Evelyn Dunphy, US artist
Intriguing and gripping by turn, the Case of Aleister Stratton takes us into the realms of the unconscious and the power of dreams to affect waking life. Reading this book slightly unhinged my grip on reality.
Craig Sams, Co-Founder of Green and Black's organic chocolate company
“Seldom does a new writer arrive unexpectedly on the literary scene who combines elegance and gripping intensity.
So welcome to K.G.V Barnwell who unleashes a mesmerizing tale that combines Alfred Hitchcock with touches of Stephen King. My research indicates that "The Case of Aleister Stratton" published under the boutique Grosvenor Artist Management imprint, is her first novella.
Hooked from the start this is a puzzling at times, stylish and beautifully written story. My research indicates that the author is behind two previous books of powerful poetry, which explains her remarkable command of the English language.
I was struck by such eye catching and oft slyly satirical prose as offered up with such composed lines as, "the wind picked up, harassing my hat and coat-upsetting my equilibrium."
Elements of Conan Doyle ("The game's afoot") intermingle with a Harold Pinteresque sensibility appears to be the trademark of this exciting newcomer's tempting and unpredictable ride.
Some readers may be familiar with the odd works of Aleister Crowley, the British occulist and poet who alas departed from this world in the English seaside town of Hastings some 70 years ago and may also wonder whether he was the inspiration for the spelling of odd, young Mr. Stratton's first name. And I must admit a key character in book does indeed journeys to Crowley's final resting place in order to seek answers-- and certainly makes the destination seem eminently desirable.
Devour and relish this book, take the Byzantine journey---and judge for yourself.”
Ivor Davis - Author of 'The Beatles & Me' and former correspondent The New York Times syndicate
“ Having long been an admirer of Kate's poetry, I was thrilled at the prospect of reading her novella: The Case of Aleister Stratton.
Her wonderful use of language demonstrated in her poetry was vividly reflected in her prose. As the mystery unfolds, the complexities of Stratton's conscious and unconscious mind emerge. I found the book a real page-turner, one I was loathe to put down. I look forward to reading her future works.”
Elizabeth Fyfe, teacher
“An intriguing and compulsively good read in this first novella by Kate Barnwell. The story is Kafka-esque and her style is perceptive and thought provoking. At times she reminded me of Virginia Woolf in her evocation of everyday life. I heartily recommend this to anybody to read - I promise you, you won't want to put it down”
Richard Sumner - Historian, writer & broadcaster
“I was intrigued by the premise of this book by an apparently new Author K.G.V. Barnwell... I was not disappointed... Written in a somewhat traditional style the sinister plot weaves cleverly and thought provokingly through some lovely descriptive passages. It is well constructed and has a good pace - to be honest I found it difficult to put down and found it a real page turner! This book has two consequences for me... firstly I want to know more about Aleister Stratton and secondly I intend to visit Hastings!
Reviews of Kate's poetry
Ever Truly Yours - Reflections on Love
“Thank you! I have just spent two wonderful hours with Ever Truly Yours. The book is beautifully produced - a lovely object - and the CD adds to the experience.
I found the poetry to be powerful and affecting. It spoke to me in ways that much of today's poetry fails to do. You have managed to paint pictures with your words and many of these pictures are strikingly vivid. There's grief and regret as well as disappointment alongside the strength and comfort that love brings. You've used rhyme in the most unforced and unobtrusive way.
The great thing is that I want to read and hear the poems all over again - they work on many levels and the more I read the more I find... This is another great collection!”
Peter Murray - Pharmaceuticals and Entrepreneur
“It is always a joy when Kate Barnwell's latest offerings are ready to caress our ears, our soul and mind.
And with Ever Truly Yours - Reflections on Love she does not disappoint. My particular favourite, Four Days With You contains elegant and powerful lyrics recounting a sadly misbegotten sojourn: an all too brief encounter.
‘It's not the fear of destination... but the impossibility of the journey,’ she tellingly writes. She continues to make great strides. Her emotive phraseology reflects the classic 19th century poetic era.”
Ivor Davis - Author The Beatles and Me On Tour
“The poems are quite wonderful! Dreamy, poignant, longing, pre-Raphelite, and as romantic as ever, as one has come to expect of Kate's work.
Within the alliterative flow, a pool of passion and unrequited love - quite Shakespearian at times in the metaphysical sense.
She gives us a feast for the senses but also diversity and layered vision. There is an underlying sadness (but beauty in her words) in treading out the beat of life, which evokes a depth of emotion in her readers and listeners.
These are impressive, original poems to return to again and again. ”
Richard Sumner - Historian, writer and broadcaster
A Collection of Poems & Lyrics
Kate is clearly an incredibly talented young poet with insights beyond her age trying to find her voice, her way. I think of a young Sylvia Plath or in part Elizabeth Barrett and in a small way, Anne Sexton. There is wonderful imagery in her poems. The old veterans are brought vividly to life in ‘Tell Me of England’. I was there for a number of Armistice Days in London, tears running down my cheeks as these aging heroes passed by. She caught that. How we shun those who are different in ‘Creature’ shows a maturity beyond her years. The voice of doubt is what I took away from ‘Saints and Angels’. ‘Sock’ is really a wonderful children's tale. ‘A Coffee Kind of Guy’ is one I'd want to turn into something in a musical for the theatre. The safety in warmth we find in ‘The Cold’. ‘Autumn‘ brought strongly to mind Millet's THE GLEANERS. Kate has a strong sense of the visual and is well on her way to integrating that successfully in her writing, for what is poetry but the handmaiden of the mind's eye.
Michael Downend - Playwright, USA
“Kate Barnwell's first Limited Edition book, A Collection of Poems & Lyrics, is a remarkable achievement for the young artist and author. Her words and poems are startlingly raw and authentic. She has drawn from a deep personal reservoir that provides us with a real emotional gem that dazzles at first reading. I was particularly touched and moved to tears by her section on love, and I read and re-read When Love Is Gone, Never Go To Paradise Alone and I Said To Her.
Such simple yet powerful, evocative lines from such a young poet is a magnificent achievement. This is a book to keep by your side, or to give to your partner not only on Valentine's Day - but everyday of the year.”
Ivor Davis - Former Columnist/Foreign Correspondent; New York Times, Times of London & London Daily Express
“Kate Barnwell's first book of poems and lyrics is a wonderful mix of poignancy, humour, heartbreak and insight. I am on my third reading and they just get better and better. I find something new each time; I love the humorous ones. They are witty, and Kate never falls into using the ‘easy’ word. I was moved by the emotional depth of Forgive, Forget and Leaving Me. The breadth of subject matter is notable. Kate writes as skilfully of Mrs. Christopher Wren as she does of A Coffee Kinda Guy. I will be eagerly awaiting more of Kate Barnwell's work.”
Evelyn Dunphy - Artist, USA
“This intriguing collection throws an interesting light on subjects as diverse as The Boring Man with the mobile on the train (haven't we all been there?) to the mouth-watering feast that makes up Grandma's Teatime. There is also a fresh take on the subject most beloved by poets through the ages - love and loss. A sometimes funny, often fragile yet haunting collection that will stay with the reader long after the last page has turned.”
Rosemary Forgan - Television Producer
“Kate Barnwell's Collection of Poems & Lyrics is a confidant new work from a young artist. These original poems of timeless landscapes, melancholy voices and gentle humour cannot fail to move you. Confidant and self-assured, both traditional and modern, there is something for everyone. It has made me re-discover the pleasure of poetry.”
David Chilton - Director, Urban Fox Media
“Kate's acute observations make me draw breath! Heart and Head being a favourite. The refreshing diversity of her prose illuminates this book. The Bakery jerks my memory! Looking forward to the next collection.”
Fiona Reid Turner - Actress
“Enchanting and charming: most absorbing and moving poems. I particularly loved Saints and Angels and The Weather of Seasons.”
Christopher Turner - Chairman, Matt's Gallery
“Kate Barnwell has found her way to the heart of poetry... not fashionable verses, but a compendium of poems for life. She has a talent for both the strong emotional verse and the lighter touch of comedy. This is a book to be read, re-read and cherished by every age group and I hope this will be the first of a library of her work.”
Graham Thorley - Photographer
“Kate Barnwell's work expresses a deep understanding of emotions experienced by a range of individuals living through a variety of situations: whether at first hand or from an historical viewpoint she successfully shares the moment with her audience.
Her work shows a refreshing, interesting and observant insight into human nature and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.”
Elizabeth Fyfe - Theatre Production
“....articulate, wistful, charming, wise... With a tinge of melancholy; above all, beautifully written. We loved Kate's book.”
Toby Patterson - Antiques and Art Expert & Lindsey Patterson - Award Winning Fashion Designer
“I hadn't come across Kate Barnwell before... she's the real thing!
I thought the poems were outstanding. Tell Me Of England bought to mind the best of British war poetry - in particular Issac Rosenberg. There is humour there too. Other poems echoed Kipling for me: they have that elusive authenticity.
She is one of the few poets today who can use rhyme and formal structure without it seeming remotely forced or constraining.
I wonder how the poetry establishment will respond - I imagine they might be a bit sniffy. I did rather like the occasional introductory notes- unfashionable but they enhance the experience. I look forward to her next collection.”
Peter Murray - Pharmaceuticals entrepreneur