An exhilarating reinvention of the gothic novel, inspired by the iconic characters of our greatest myths and nightmares.
The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.
Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.
At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.
I feel like Hemlock Grove desperately wants to be Dracula (but y’know with Werewolves) when in fact it’s just one big mess. I finished reading this over a week ago and this whole time I’ve just been thinking what the hell WAS that!?’ I honestly didn’t know whether to rate it 1 or 5, it was that baffling.
Initially I appreciated the style, Mcgreevy was clearly trying to mimic the old school gothic lit of the past and give it a fresh going over, but it just didn’t work….I don’t think. The more I read the more I realised that his writing is so over the top and so laden with unnecessary symbolism that I had no idea what was going on, but I couldn’t stop. It was like watching a car crash.
For some reason I was interested in the story. The murders were brutal and gory (to my liking) and I enjoyed the ‘whodunnit’ element. Peter goes around telling everyone he’s a werewolf so obviously he’s prime suspect number one, even though no one really seems that bothered that he’s a werewolf, and I don’t really understand why they believe him in the first place because we don’t actually see any Werewolf action for most of the book. Or did I miss that? I honestly have no idea.
The other suspect is Roman. who’s a bit of a dick. That’s pretty much all I have to say about him, but I did like the dynamic between the two who then team up to discover the real truth about what’s going on. They definitely had some kind of homoerotic bromance going on, which kept me reading, obviously.
Shelley is a character who provides some Gothic Horror GOLD. She’s practically a giant with blocks on her feet, who is mute, glows demonically and is clearly supposed to be the Frankenstein’s Monster of the story. I think Shelley did work in that she pertains to the gothic atmosphere and provokes the questions ‘what/when/how/who’ but I don’t really understand how she fits into the ‘normal’ small town without people batting an eyelid. Odd.
I did really enjoy the setting though. The mystery and creepiness of the Biotech facility -which you can’t help but suspect is behind Shelley and the deaths – created an industrial, gothic feel to it which is new. Industrial Gothic…now there’s a genre we’ve been waiting for, no? The White Tower at least made the story plausible in that you can pretty much explain everything on scientific experiments, right?
I think that if McGreevy wasn’t concentrating so hard on nailing the Gothic Horror genre, and concentrated on just telling a good story that Hemlock Grove could be 100% better. But as it is it just seems a bit pretentious. The terrible grammar and inconsistencies made each sentence a chore. A CHORE. And the dialogue was just laughable.
Some of my favourite baffling lines:
She pulled Peter into a hug and kissed his cheek and gave his ponytail an annoyed jerk and harangued him didn’t he have a girlfriend to cut his hair.
So many things wrong with that sentence. WTF?
He pronounced ‘this’ in the phonetically correct fashion, but somehow it still rhymed with ‘us’.
‘Her Heart was a flicked mold of gelatin’ – What the hell does that mean???
A quality of thereness was missing from his face, his green eyes were windows to nothing. He was mercurial.
“Of course, minute as its impact may be in our physical universe, the fact of quantum entanglement is this: If one logically inexplicable thing is known to exist, then this permits the existence of all logically inexplicable things. A thing may be of deeper impossibility than another, in the sense that you can be more deeply underwater–but whether you are five feet or five fathoms from the surface you are still all wet.” You what now?”
Not to mention chapter titles such as ‘God doesn’t want you to be happy, he wants you to be strong’, Peter’s hierarchy of shit he can live without’ and ‘The most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off’. Brilliant.
So yeah, Hemlock Grove is entertaining in a way but so overwritten it’s hard to get to the actual story. I hope they did a better job with the TV series.
Details: Paperback, 319 pages. Published March 27th 2012 by FSG Originals. Thanks to Di for lending me this(I think)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns (I think)
Is it a keeper? It’s not mine, but err no.
If you liked this try: Dracula