Sunday, 8 February 2015

Book Review: An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

The promise of a sparkling new life for Kim Newman's 'dysfunctional British nuclear family' lures the reader in with teases as to what has led the Naremores to occupy The Hollow - far away from the troubles and influences of their past.

I'm not the first reviewer to mention the similarity to James Herbert's The Magic Cottage, and although I read that book back in 1986, An English Ghost Story instantly evoked very similar emotions in me of delight and fear in equal measure.

It's a credit to the author that his writing can entrance the reader for quite some time before the darkness slowly starts to set in. From then on the writing style subtly changes as we progress - from poetic descriptions to a sharper, staccato delivery which matches the tension.

The house is a metaphor for the story itself. It is not just a place occupied by ghosts and more sinister entities, it is home to diverse personalities with banal and extreme human traits, where strengths and weaknesses are tested - to the limit. Newman toys with the psychology of his characters, as does The Hollow, treating them as playthings in this place where memories are warped and misconceived solutions create more problems than they solve.

Overall, I was enraptured by An English Ghost Story and completely drawn in, making the book difficult to put down. The only reason I haven't given it five stars is that the Naremore characters repeat the justification for their actions a little too often and it feels like the reader is being reminded, just in case we might have forgotten what each of them has been through. But I can overlook this.

4 stars. Highly recommended.

Buy An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman from Amazon

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Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.