Revisiting An English Ghost Story #BookReview #HorrorOctober

horroroctofficial2016

It has become somewhat of a tradition to kick off the Horror October proceedings by reblogging my favourite read from the previous year. And I’ve also noticed a bit of a pattern. They aren’t necessarily the highest rated book I read, but rather the one that has stuck with me the whole year through.

The first time around I chose The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black and last year I chose Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory. These are certainly books that I think about often, and An English Ghost Story is no exception. 

An English Ghost Story ~ Kim Newman

new3
Format: Paperback, 315 pages
Publication Details: October 7th 2014 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Horror; Supernatural
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

A dysfunctional British nuclear family seek a new life away from the big city in the sleepy Somerset countryside. At first their new home, The Hollow, seems to embrace them, creating a rare peace and harmony within the family. But when the house turns on them, it seems to know just how to hurt them the most—threatening to destroy them from the inside out.

Review

This was the last book I read for Horror October, and I’m so glad because I finished the month on a high.

An English Ghost Story was exactly what I was looking for! It was a book which started with promise. I was absorbed from the beginning even before anything spooky happened and then it built up its suspense and creepiness in a masterful, almost majestic way.

The Naremore family move into a grand old house in the countryside which was previously owned by a famous children’s author whose popular series of books were about a haunted boarding school. It turns out that these books were a lot less fictitious than anyone would have believed.

However, the ghosts, spirits, or presences (however you would like to refer to them) struck the Naremore family as friendly, and they found The Hollow an enchanted place to live. A place where they were finally happy; it had brought the family together in a way they had not felt before.

Unfortunately for them…the family had been lulled into a false sense of security and bit by bit, the ‘others’ in the house start to make life very difficult in The Hollow. The dream home, becomes a nightmare. They are turned against each other, and it looks as if they won’t wake up until there’s no one left.

This book was delicious for a horror fan like me. Ghost stories aren’t usually my favourite because I often find them unbelievable and just not scary enough, but I loved how ‘real’ An English Ghost Story felt. It gradually built up momentum as the house began to turn against them and slowly pulled their family apart. I couldn’t put it down.

It was funny in places, certainly creepy, and had some great gory, gross-out moments, but it felt magical too; it had a whimsical feel about it, like reading through a dream.

I was very impressed by my first delve into Kim Newman’s imagination, and I can’t wait to read more. Maybe I’ll finally get round to Anno Dracula now!

unicorn rating 4


Next up on Horror October: Review – Haunt Me by Liz Kessler

Horror October: Revisiting Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory #HorrorOctober

HorrorOct2015

I can’t quite believe how, but yes, Horror October is here already! Last year, I started a tradition of reblogging my favourite Horror October read from the previous year as a way of officially kicking off the proceedings.

Last year I reblogged the wonderful Coldest Girl in Cold Town and this year, I’ve chosen Wakening the Crow.

Wakening the Crow was certainly not my highest-rated read of last year’s Horror October, (and in fact it was the last book I reviewed and didn’t actually post it until November BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT), however it’s the only one that has really stayed with me.

It was such a unique, haunting and uncomfortable read, I definitely feel like it was the most ‘Horror’ or all the books I read. I loved how classically gothic it was, amongst other things.

So without further ado, here is my original review….

A Vestry, Edgar Allan Poe, and a Mischievous Crow…

netg2
Title: Wakening the Crow
Author: Stephen Gregory
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 256 pages
Publication Details: November 11th 2014 by Solaris
Genre(s): Horror; Gothic
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase

With the looming shadow of Edgar Allan Poe falling over one family, Gregory takes the reader into a world of uncertainty and fear.

Oliver Gooch comes across a tooth, in a velvet box, with a handwritten note from 1888 to say it’s a tooth from the boy Edgar Allan Poe. He displays it in his new bookshop, and names the store Poe’s Tooth Books.

Oliver took the money from his small daughter Chloe’s accident insurance and bought a converted church to live in with his altered child and wife. Rosie hopes Chloe will came back to herself but Oliver is secretly relieved to have this new easy-to-manage child, and holds at bay the guilt that the accident was a result of his negligence. On a freezing night he and Chloe come across the crow, a raggedy skeletal wretch of a bird, and it refuses to leave. It infiltrates their lives, it alters Oliver’s relationship with Rosie, it changes Chloe. It’s a dangerous presence in the firelit, shadowy old vestry, in Poe’s Tooth Books.

Inexorably the family, the tooth, the crow, the church and their story will draw to a terrifying climax.

 Review

Everything about this synopsis intrigued me; the bizarreness of basing a story – and indeed a horror bookshop – on the discovery of Poe’s tooth, the idea that a manky crow can have an impact on the characters’ relationships, and the gothic setting. Sounds good right?

Well, I’m pleased to say that it was…for the most part.

Oliver Gooch is a very strange protagonist and narrator. From the start it’s evident that he’s not altogether what you would call a loving father and husband, or even a good, decent person. Honest maybe, but loving, no.

He frequently refers to his daughter as fat, disgusting and petulant, and his wife as not much better, but all of this adds to a growing unease.

Previously a mobile library driver, Oliver is now about to open his own horror bookshop in the church they have recently bought to also live in. The money came out of a tragic accident when Chloe got stung by a wasp in the mobile library, ran out into the road and suffered a head injury which changed her completely.

Now mute and compliant, with a constant sweet smile upon her face, Chloe is a different daughter entirely, and Oliver is relieved. So much so that he fears the day that she might actually recover.

Stephen Gregory does a great job of creating suspense here. The more we are led through this story by Oliver, the more disturbing it gets. He sees himself as becoming the Poe-like character he dreams of; he stops washing;  he drinks constantly, and tries to ‘write’. He seems to think that the more dishevelled he becomes, and the more grim the bookshop appears, the better. But all of this is at the expense of his family.

The only problem I had with this book was that I couldn’t understand Oliver as a character. I almost felt sorry for him at times, but it’s hard to empathise with someone who laughed at their daughter when she got stung by a wasp, resulting in her being brain damaged. I always felt like there was a good person trying to get out of him, but it never came.

I also expected more of a climax to the story, but overall this was a great read for a dark and stormy night, filled with gothic imagery and a overriding sense of unease.

unicorn rating 3

Wakening the Crow is available from November 11th, or to pre-order now at Waterstones

UP NEXT ON #HORROROCTOBER: Arrows of Darkness Promo