In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.
The Woman in Black
Susan Hill (Adult Fiction)
It’s Christmas Eve at Monk’s Piece. Lawyer Arthur Kipps, his wife and children are gathered around the fire telling ghost stories, as is ancient tradition. They all take turns until it comes to Arthur. “Now come, stepfather, your turn. You must know at least one ghost story, stepfather, everyone knows one…” Arthur does know a ghost story. One haunted by a child’s anguished screams, an approaching pony and trap, a moving rocking chair with no occupant, and a mysterious woman in black. A ghost story made even more horrifying and terrible because this story is true…absolutely true.
I wasn’t familiar with Susan Hill before this book, but about twenty pages in, I was so impressed with the eloquent and nuanced writing style, and so immersed in the story, that I wondered if she was English. Sure enough, she is. There is no mistaking a truly adept English or British author. The turns of phrase, the sentence structure, and the painstaking attention to detail without being overly verbose all add up to an exceptionally well-crafted book.
Hill gives us a satisfying horror story which achieves its goal of raising the hairs on your neck and increasing the beats of your heart. By introducing noises in the dark, mysterious brushes against your body, and an invisible presence that always seems to be just right behind you, she goes to the very core of our fears and keeps them tucked into the deepest, darkest corners of our soul—very far away from the light. Hill gives us a gripping and suspenseful story that builds at a steady and progressive pace until the final climax. With one last blow thrown in at the end, it might be best to read this with a torch (flashlight) nearby…just in case.
* Book cover image attributed to www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Neil Gaiman (Young Adult Fiction)
Coraline (not Caroline) Jones lives in a rather large house with her mother and father. Because the house is much too big for just one family, she shares it with Misses Spink and Forcible (they live in the flat below) and the crazy old man with a big mustache (who lives in the flat above). The day after she moves in, Coraline goes exploring. She IS an explorer after all and exploring is what she does. She explores the gardens, the tennis court, and even the old well (which is very dangerous so it’s best to stay away from it). Soon, she begins exploring her house, which leads her to a door (which is kept locked), which opens up to a brick wall. But one day, the brick wall isn’t there and Coraline decides to go through the door, because that is what explorers do. It’s not long before Coraline realizes that she should have listened to the mice (in the flat above) and NOT have gone through the door. Mice are smart. At least they pronounce her name correctly.
Coraline is a wonderfully spooky and thrilling tale of a young girl who is clever, brave, and kind. Her curiosity tends to get her into mischief, but a level head and a compassionate heart always seem to allow this little explorer to come out on top.
In his book, Neil Gaiman shows us different kinds of love. There’s the I-love-yellow-Wellington-boots-in-the-shape-of-frogs love and the I’d-love-for-you-to-go-away-so-I-can-work love and then the I-love-you-so-much-that-I-will-give-you-everything-so-you’ll-love-me-too kind of love. Throughout our story, Coraline deals with all of these: her own love for quirky things; the love from her parents who often don’t seem to notice her; and the demanding love from a strange being that will go to any length in order to acquire and keep it. The Ancient Greeks identified eight kinds of love. Psychologists state there are seven. For Coraline, there is only one kind of love and that is the love she has for her mother and father. It is this love that gives her the will and the strength to fight against seemingly overwhelming odds and terrifying beings in order to find her way home again…and back to love.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com