Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

Genre: Gothic Ghost Mystery
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, 2004

Gerard Freeman spent his childhood in the small Australian town of Mawson enchanted with the stories his mother told him of her growing up at the home of her grandmother in England. Until the day he opened a locked drawer in his mother's bedroom where he found a photograph and an old manuscript.....and suffers his mother's rage when she discovers him.

Gerard finds solace in his penpal friendship with Alice Jessel, a young English girl left parentless and crippled after an accident. It's a friendship that over the years becomes an obsessive love . More manuscripts also come to light, hinting at his mother's role in a catastrophe that might be a crime and eventually Gerard travels to England hoping to unravel the family mystery and unite with Alice.

I bought this book at the beginning of the year from the library sales shelf with the intention of saving it for the RIP challenge. Just as well I didn't look at it more closely because if I'd known it would be as good as it was I'd have read it long before now.

The Ghost Writer is exactly how I like my ghostly horror stories. Although a contemporary novel the writing style has a Victorian feel about it , the suspense builds slowly and a good deal is left to the reader's imagination.
There are stories within the story . The manuscripts Gerard finds are short stories written by his great-grandmother and four of them are included in the book. Wonderfully spooky and creepy ghost tales with sinister fog, a strange portraits, a porcelain doll  and a musty old green gown, apparitions guaranteed to send shivers down the spine. Stories that Gerard comes to realise have a connection to events in his own life.

The ending does not come wrapped up nice and neatly. I've read some reviews this morning in which readers say they were disappointed and confused by the ending. I wasn't - the book is cleverly constructed , the clues are all there for the reader to find and if I still have a couple of questions that only means I've missed a clue and if I look I'll find the answer.

I loved it!

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  1. You make this sound wonderful. I have a copy tucked away somewhere, and now I am sorely tempted to go and look for it.

  2. I hope you'll find it and enjoy it as much as I did!

  3. You might also want to find Harwood's THE SEANCE. It's a historical mystery set in the Victorian era that is a great tribute to the works of Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and all the Victorian sensation writers. There are allusions to Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Woman in White and every old dark house book ever written. Eerie and great fun to read.

  4. Thank you John - I look forward to reading The Seance.