Sort of half intentionally and half unintentionally, all the books I read this October were Halloween-worthy. I started out with the idea of finally tackling my Stephen King TBR List and it spiralled from there.
I first read The Dark Half, a novel about Thad Beaumont, a literary novelist, and his much more successful penname George Stark, who is “not a very nice guy”. When Thad tries to lay George to rest, George takes on human form and begins murdering all the people in Thad’s life who were involved in both creating and killing George.
This actually read more like a crime novel than a horror, and I can’t say I was frightened at any point. If you’re into serial killer novels with a bit of gore, this might be the one for you, but I wasn’t excited by it. There were good moments but I’m unlikely to ever re-read it.
I continued with the King theme and next read Pet Sematary, which I’ve been meaning to read for years. It wasn’t the story I expected, which was basically an adult version of Cry of the Cat from the Goosebumps series. Instead it’s about a family who move to Maine (obviously) and their little girl’s cat dies. A neighbour takes the father to a nearby Mayan burial ground which has the magical ability to bring dead animals back to life – and, as we soon discover, people… However, whether human or pet, they never come back quite right.
I enjoyed this more than The Dark Half but I thought there was too much build-up. A lot focused on Lou settling into his new job and I wanted to get to the scary part. However, there were parts where I was genuinely worried for the characters and almost a bit scared. It had none of the urgent horror of Cujo or Misery though.
I’ve always found that I either can’t put King’s books down or I can’t get into them at all, but now it seems a bit more in between. I wonder if this is because I read so much more widely now?
Next I re-read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, which had been due a re-read for a long time. I like to pick it up around Halloween but didn’t do so last year (probably so I could reach my Goodreads target) and the break did me good as it was really exciting to rediscover. This is the ghost story I will always champion: Arthur Kipps, a young, eager solicitor travels to Eel Marsh House to sort the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow, a client who has recently died. While attending Mrs Drablow’s funeral, Arthur notices a woman in black with a wasted face, standing at the back of the church, and then again in the graveyard. When he mentions this to associates later his words are met with distress and he soon comes to realise that all is not as it seems.
I first discovered this book when I went to see the play back in 2011 or 2012, and I had nightmares for weeks. However I still loved it and bought both the playscript and the novel (inspiring more nightmares) and I maintain that it is the best ghost story ever written (though I suppose I haven’t read that many). Hill’s writing is to a standard and in a style not often seen in this day and age – in fact for a long time I thought it was an olde-wolde novel whose author must have died a long time ago, but it was actually written in the 1980s and Hill is alive and well (she published a fabulous little book of ghost stories called The Traveling Bag last year).
Hoping to find something in the same vein, I next read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. As I read it I quickly realised it was the book that the film The Haunting with Catherine Zeta-Jones is based on. I used to love that film when I was a kid but haven’t seen it in years and have forgotten most of it. However, from what I can remember, they changed quite a lot from the source material.
Unfortunately Hill House wasn’t quite my cup of tea and I certainly didn’t find it frightening. It was really more about the characters than the eerie events, and I found Eleanor in particular to be very tiring. She’s an unreliable narrator, though whether this is down to her personality or down to the way the house affects her is undecided. I would have liked to have learned more about why the house affected her so – the words ‘Welcome Home Eleanor’ were never really explained – did the ghost think she was someone else?
I would like to read more Shirley Jackson as I’m sure she has something out there for me. I did read The Lottery briefly at uni and seem to remember enjoying that. However I found Hill House kind of ‘meh’ and didn’t enjoy We Have Always Lived in the Castle at all.
Although I didn’t discover any new favourite books, I had a really lovely month of reading. I had so much fun rediscovering The Woman in Black and have just started rereading Girl Up by Laura Bates (which in some aspects is scarier than any of the aforementioned books…)
In absolutely unrelated but completely awesome news, I also have bought a puppy!!! We are picking her up on Monday and I am SO excited. I was really against going to a breeder and really against getting a puppy, but my boyfriend convinced me to go and look at her and of course I fell in love, didn’t I? I will be sure to incorporate her into my book photos when she arrives!
Here she is for now:
Look at that face! We’re calling her Pepper and she’s a little redheaded long-haired sausage dog and I love her annnnd I’ll stop talking about her now.
Thanks for stopping by!