The haunted house story remains an enduring favourite. Abandonment and past memories conjure dangerous curiosity, history leaves an emotional stain and beckons ghosts to come out to play.
Kim Newman’s latest novel, An English Ghost Story, delivers everything you’d expect from a traditional tale set in a contemporary world.
The Naremores family are looking to start afresh, away from a past that has bought them to the West Country, to the Hollow. Upon their first visit the family fall in love with the house that sits above surrounding moorlands, a vast span of land and an apple orchard. It’s more than the Naremores could’ve dreamed of and is a far cry from the London metropolis. But the Hollow is more than it appears and draws them into a mystery they could not have foreseen.
The Hollow has a special history. It’s said to be one of the most haunted spots in England and once belonged to children’s author Louise Teazle whose books included stories of the Hollow’s friendly ghosts. The paranormal doesn’t go unnoticed by the Naremores who are welcomed by supernatural presences that loiter around the estate.
Parents Steven and Kirsty along with their children Jordan and Tim begin to develop their own individual and unique relationship with the house. Their supernatural experiences lure them deeper into the house’s past. The Teazle Society also make contact, stressing to the Naremores family the importance of maintaining the Hollow as a cultural landmark. The family are happy to oblige but soon find the house and their past colliding in a terrifying way.
The family’s new found happiness is short lived as the ghosts turn against them. Relationships become strained and the issues that bought them to the house are exposed leaving the ghosts to revel in their torment. How could a house deemed as salvation turn against them so abruptly and lead them along a path of destruction? It’s time for the Naremores to fight for their home and, most importantly, their sanity.
An English Ghost Story takes you on an intimate journey of a broken family, where ghosts of the past fight with ghosts of the present and future. It’s written with affection and empathy and with a strong sense of family values. This is a fantastic ghost story told in a domestic setting. Kim Newman paints a vivid picture of a haunted England with its moat, towers, barn and a history that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The story is well paced with suggestions of possible misdemeanours strewn along the narrative like breadcrumbs leading you to a hellish nightmare where you can never be entirely certain that matters will be peacefully resolved.
It takes courage to take on the haunted house genre. You work in the shadow of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or Stephen King’s The Shining. And then there are the movies: House on Haunted Hill, Legend of Hell House or Poltergeist. The clichés and tropes are well known but I found An English Ghost Story beautifully written and full of magic and enchantment. And far from being reminded of Jackson or King I found myself thinking back to The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, a book I read five times over as a child because with that book too I also believed every word on the page and felt myself drawn into a world I never knew could exist. An English Ghost Story is a book I will certainly read again.
You can buy a copy of An English Ghost Story here.