Favourites Friday #13 (Horror October Edition): The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom

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It was expecting them.

Conrad and Joanna Harrison, a young couple from Los Angeles, attempt to save their marriage by leaving the pressures of the city to start anew in a quiet, rural setting. They buy a Victorian mansion that once served as a haven for unwed mothers, called a birthing house. One day when Joanna is away, the previous owner visits Conrad to bequeath a vital piece of the house’s historic heritage, a photo album that he claims “belongs to the house.” Thumbing through the old, sepia-colored photographs of midwives and fearful, unhappily pregnant girls in their starched, nineteenth-century dresses, Conrad is suddenly chilled to the bone: staring back at him with a countenance of hatred and rage is the image of his own wife….

Thus begins a story of possession, sexual obsession, and, ultimately, murder, as a centuries-old crime is reenacted in the present, turning Conrad and Joanna’s American dream into a relentless nightmare.

An extraordinary marriage of supernatural thrills and exquisite psychological suspense, The Birthing House marks the debut of a writer whose first novel is a terrifying tour de force.

OK, so I’ve only just seen what a bad average rating this book has on Goodreads and I haven’t read it since it came out in 2009 but I’ve wanted to read it again ever since. I think the main thing I liked about this book was that it pays homage to the great haunted house/ posession films that I grew up on like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist and added a better back story.

Despite being a bit of a tool, I liked Conrad as the protagonist and when the shit starts to hit the fan I felt sorry for him, knowing that there was no way he was gonna get out that house unscathed. Nadia, the seductive and down-right odd teenager next door, the crying babies at night and the proper weird stick-doll thing which may or may not be a figment of Conrad’s fucked up imagination, all worked for me.

It was a little bit horror-by-numbers, but for a debut novel I thought Ransom did a good job. The Birthing House was a quick, atmospheric read with just enough creep-factor to satisfy my creepiness.