Alan Noble is the husband of Fiona. His role throughout the novel is to act as a support to his wife as she goes through her series of visions in an effort to piece together the story of George and Esmeralda Avine. Then, later in the book she has to find out what really happened to James Forbisher and Emily Ratchett, the seventeenth century couple. This was the couple from different sides of the track who were from opposing classes. They married despite opposition from James’s family who were from the upper classes. Emily was a servant girl but James loved her and did not care if by choosing her he was cut off financially from his family. The love they shared was more important to him than money.
Early on in the novel, when Fiona becomes aware of Esmeralda’s ghost, she is surprised that her husband takes this news at face value. She had thought he would lampoon her talk of ghosts, but instead he buys into it. She is glad of this and very thankful for the support he shows to her throughout all of the unearthly experiences she goes through.
Fiona gives Alan regular updates as she progresses with Esmeralda’s journal, the one she found hidden away in a dressing table drawer when they first arrived at their holiday home. As she moves from one visitation to the next Alan expresses a wish that he could go through similar experiences. He feels a little left out by only hearing about his wife’s visions and not having any of his own. Fiona suggests he should not be wishing for something like that. After all, a lot of what she takes in are not what she would describe as comforting scenes. Despite this, however, she finds herself becoming enthralled by the sequence of events which are being played out for her benefit.
At one point in the holiday Alan becomes quite disturbed by his wife’s obsession with her visions. He feels she is becoming so engrossed by what she sees from the past that she is withdrawing herself from the society of her family. There are occasions when they are spending time as a family where she doesn’t seem to be there at all. She acts almost like a zombie as she lets her mind wander and drifts off into a different time and place. It takes a great deal of cajoling from Alan to return her to the here and now.
Despite his concerns for his wife’s welfare (or perhaps because of these concerns) Alan shows Fiona a lot of understanding. Fiona appreciates this. Despite the fact she is taken over so overwhelmingly by her visions she never loses sight of the strength of character her husband shows towards her. In his place many other men would not have shown the same sort of caring attitude as Alan displays throughout this craziest of all holidays. He proves to be a rock throughout this time and helps Fiona with his soothing words towards her when she is becoming overwrought by all of the historical sequences which are being played out in front of her.
It is good for Fiona that she has a soundboard she can use to air all of her feelings thereby getting them out into the open. By telling Alan of all she is going through she can make sense of the situations which come her way. Her husband also assists her in piecing together the double mystery of George and Esmeralda from the nineteenth century and James and Emily from the seventeenth century. Their stories are very different but in a strange sort of way they are also very similar. This mixture of experiences is something which Fiona finds difficult to grasp but as she listens to the sensible and astute words of her husband she slowly comes to see there is an important message being relayed to her through the annals of time. It speaks of the power of love and how it can cross boundaries. It can even, given the chance, exist eternally. When the ramifications of this message hits home Fiona reflects back to her own marriage and feels enormously gratified and lucky to have a man such as Alan in her life. Her ghostly experiences on this holiday then take on the form and texture of a realisation of what she has in her own life and that she should never take it for granted.