An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman
|An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman|
|Reviewer: Susmita Chatto|
|Summary: An intriguing and imaginative development of the classic “haunted house” tale.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 313||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
The Naremores, a family with a troubled past, leave London in search of peace in the quiet Somerset countryside. Finding the perfect home – 'The Hollow' – appears to symbolise a turning point and the end of all their problems. The Hollow seems possessed of a healing magic which can restore health and relationships as well as hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, the positive power of the Hollow is suddenly challenged and the family are plunged into horrors that perhaps they should have foreseen…
This is a terrific read; a heady, at times almost suffocating, mix of ghosts, fantasy and reality examined with painful thoroughness. The book starts with a clear portrayal of the dysfunction of the family and Newman’s writing mirrors their feelings beautifully throughout as they move from hopeless on to hopeful - and then divert off into hysteria as their past catches up with them.
Newman has a rare talent for pinpointing and dissecting the precise moment in which an emotion turns, then exposing the massive amount of damage that one split second of altered thinking can cause. His exposition at this point is incredibly skilful. This makes the book quite emotional to read; the problems experienced by Jordan, the teenage daughter, and the fractured marriage of Steven and Kirsty are incredibly real and raw.
There are several stories packed into this book, which is about more than just the family and a haunted house. The ghosts and magic linked with the Hollow are complex, relating not just to several previous owners but also to fiction created by a previous owner. Newman has dropped in these stories as both fiction and historical fact, and these insertions are perfectly timed, ensuring the reader gets to know the Hollow in the same way as the family.
The “stories within the story” do mean that the book is stuffed with necessary and meaningful detail but the exposition is so smooth it makes for a beautifully flowing tale. However, I must admit to being a little thrown when the novel crossed over into the realm of fantasy. I am not a reader of the fantasy genre so I did find the denouement a little long but that may be because I was in unfamiliar territory and having been so firmly anchored in the reality of each person’s emotional crises, it felt a little jarring. If you are expecting a conventional ghost story, this interlude might be a surprise but it does ultimately fit well with the book.
Newman has created a seamless blend of fantasy and reality with this work. Even if you feel the “haunted house” story is a well trodden path, if you are looking for a story which will really focus your mind, keep you engrossed and keep the surprises coming, this is it.
Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories by Cecily Gayford (editor) A varied selection of delightfully sinister stories.
You can read more book reviews or buy An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman at Amazon.com.
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