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The Return

Walter De la Mare

Book Overview: 

A story of psychological horror, The Return explores ideas of identity, love, and alienation. Arthur grapples with the reactions of his family and community, and his own sanity, when he experiences a sudden and mysterious "transformation".

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .He's'—his voice sank almost to a whisper—'he's no darker than this. And do, please, Sheila, take this infernal stuff away, and let me have something solid. I'm not ill—in that way. All I want is peace and quiet, time to think. Let me fight it out alone. It's been sprung on me. The worst's not over. But I'll win through; wait! And if not—well, you shall not suffer, Sheila. Don't be afraid. There are other ways out.'

Sheila broke down. 'Any one would think to hear you talk, that I was perfectly heartless. I told Ada to be most careful about the cornflour. And as for other ways out, it's a positively wicked thing to say to me when I'm nearly distracted with trouble and anxiety. What motive could you have had for loitering in an old cemetery? And in an east wind! It's useless for me to remain here, Arthur, to be accused of every horrible thing that comes into a morbid imagination. I will leave you, as you suggest, in peace.'

'One. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The Return by Walter de la Mare is an occult tale of possession. Written over one hundred years ago during the dawn of Modernism this novel is definitely not part of the Modernist Pantheon. It is more of a Gothic work, nebulous and dark, in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. In this story Arthur L...more

I first read Walter de la Mare's fiction in his seminal ghost story "Seaton's Aunt" (the ending of which built to such a level of menace that I still retain a visual image in my mind of the final scene). I'd also heard Erik Bauersfeld's performance of de la Mare's "All Hallows" (which concerns od...more

De La Mare's novel tells the story of a young man who wakes up with a different face. I mean, a totally different face. The horror is the lack of reason and how it changes his life. Oh, and it happened after he fell asleep in a graveyard.

I prefer De La Mare's short stories. This was more of a ch...more

In Prague-born author Franz Kafka's 1915 novella "The Metamorphosis," a man named Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and discovers that he has somehow been transformed into a cockroach. But this, it seems, was not the first time that a human being had undergone a baffling overnight transformation....more

'And then—you know how such thoughts seize us, my dear—like a sudden inspiration, I realised how tenuous, how appallingly tenuous a hold we every one of us have on our mere personality.'

Walter de la Mare's mature horror short stories ('Seaton's Aunt', 'All Hallows', 'A Recluse', 'Mr. Kempe', 'Cre...more

A man who has been ill takes a walk to a distant churchyard, falls asleep for an hour or two on a large tombstone, and wakes to find himself a different person. We are several years before Franz Kafka's tale, "The Metamorphosis," and what we get in this story is a very different picture altogethe...more

Angela Carter put it well, if bluntly: "The Return is not a good novel”. The premise is interesting – a man falls asleep in a graveyard, and becomes possessed by the spirit of an eighteenth century Frenchman. But having come up with the idea of demonic possession, de la Mare doesn’t really know w...more

"What the hell?"

I obviously either have a much greater imagination than the average reader or was so bored by the lack of plot in this book that I invented a completely different scenario than anyone else on goodreads.

Okay, I do agree that The Return has multiple interpretations. Did Lawford's a...more

'Once a man strays out of the common heard, he is more likely to meet wolves in the thickets than angels.'

Lawford has a dilemma. He's wearing someone else's face. He now faces the difficult task of convincing his wife he is still himself, whilst attempting to maintain a grip on his own sanity.
Thi...more

Insidiously horrific, unrelentingly disturbing…

This story of ‘psychic possession’, as other reviews state, is the first of its kind that I have encountered; so much so that, several chapters on, I was still half-believing that what the main character, Arthur Lawford, was experiencing was nothing...more

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