Robert Anthony Siegel’s new novel All Will Be Revealed combines an engrossing plot with intricately drawn characters and a rich historical setting to create a book that is both entertaining and artistic in a way that literary novels so rarely are.
The book tells the story of Augustus Auerbach, a successful, wheelchair-bound pornographer living in late nineteenth century New York City and Verena Swann, a renowned spiritual medium and the widow of adventurer Captain Theodore Swann. The two meet when one of Auerbach’s models forces him to attend a séance at Swann’s home. At first skeptical, Auerbach becomes entranced by Swann who is able to summon her failing powers to channel Auerbach’s long lost mother. Verena Swann is torn between three men: the pornographer, her deceased husband and his brother, Leopold Swann who is her business partner and promoter. The plot of the novel moves deftly from Auerbach’s point of view to Verena Swann’s and back again, showing the worlds that they each inhabit and the insecurities that are inherent in their lives of deception.
All Will Be Revealed is the story of how the entrepreneurial spirit of Auerbach and Swann, can be tarnished by their own consciences. As a reader, it is a pleasure to dwell inside this novel. Siegel’s odd and flawed characters come to life, as if they could jump off the page and show the reader a pornographic photo or conduct a séance with her own lost loved ones.
On its surface, All Will Be Revealed is about the fantasy industry. Both Augustus Auerbach and Verena Swann are engaged in different forms of deception. Auerbach has amassed great wealth by creating the illusion of intimacy with his multi-dimensional stereograph portraits of sexual fantasies (a late 19th century version of the pornographic film). Swann, trades in spiritual illusion by pretending to connect with her client’s long, lost relatives.
Despite their considerable skills both are haunted by their misdeeds and painfully aware of the tremendous chasm that exists between the dreams they create and reality. “It had never occurred to [Swann] that she might walk through an eccentric palace beside a millionaire with soft brown eyes. Or that she might help him free himself from a degrading connection, help him remake himself into something better, perhaps even noble. She had grown so used to fleecing people it had come to seem inevitable—but it was not. She could still be useful to somebody who truly needed her.”
While the topic of the book might seem scandalous, the ideas that Robert Anthony Siegel explores are quite serious. Through these deeply flawed characters, Siegel exposes the way that people connect at levels beyond the flesh. In the middle of the book, as the unexpected love between Swann and Auerbach is developing, Auerbach observes, “Perhaps, he thought, the flesh is not everything. Perhaps there is something else, something that does not stop at the border of our skins, that flows out and around, that joins and stays.” Auerbach is a man who is crippled physically and Swann is a woman who is crippled emotionally and somehow, this adds up together to a complete love. All Will Be Revealed is a book that, at its core, thinks most seriously about whether it is at the place where imperfections lie that true passion ignites.