Angelica reminded me of The Turn of the Screw in which a household seems to be plagued by a supposed ghost. Similar to the Turn of the Screw, Angelica is set in the 1800s and revolves around a deteriorating family. Constance and her husband, Joseph, are in a failing marriage which causes Constance to retreat into herself and her relationship with her daughter. She wins the affection of her daughter, Angelica, and uses this against Joseph. Previous to Angelica's birth, Constance suffered numerous failed pregnancies and was told that any pregnancy brought to term could kill her and the child. Angelica's birth almost killed both her and Constance and therefore Constance was told to stop any relations with her husband that could result in a pregnancy. However, Joseph still demands her physical attentions.
These hazardous personal relationships are the backdrop to the ghost story that begins when Constance believes that she sees a ghost. She believes the spirit to be malevolent and thinks that it plans to hurt Angelica. Joseph does not believe his wife's dramatics and, once again, Angelica is caught between her two parents. Constance seeks out spiritual help to cleanse the house while Joseph calls in the help of a psychiatrist for his wife. However, Angelica may not be the innocent child that both of her parents believe her to be. In fact, she might be just has conniving as they are.
Similar to The Turn of the Screw, Angelica is much more than just a ghost story. In fact, there may not even be a ghost at all! Phillips is extraordinary in exposing all sides of the story to the reader. The story is told in four sections that are each narrated by a different character. Still, it is extremely difficult to figure out which perspective is truthful because each narrator contradicts the previous ones.
Clearly, Angelica gives the reader much more than just the chills. It is a study in characters, relationships, and the results of being pushed to one's breaking point. In addition, it documents the historic clash between spiritualism/folklore and medicine/science. An excellent read that will have you thinking about the characters months after you finish!