39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, spellbinding terror.
The Ghost Writer is a superbly crafted,ingeniously constructed, elegantly written supernatural novel, a compulsive page-turner which will be enjoyed by connoisseurs of the genre and the more general reader alike. Certainly no afficionado of the Golden Age ghost story---the world of M.R. James, Vernon Lee, 'The Turn of the Screw' and Arthur Machen can afford to miss this...
Published on 3 May 2004 by Goth lady
2.0 out of 5 stars Stars diminish page by page
I bought this book before finishing the author's follow-up novel, The Seance.
If I'd waited, I'd probably have opted to save my money - such was my disappointment with that effort.
As it was, I began Ghost Writer, feeling mightily pleased with the purchase. It began slowly, but the setup was intriguing, and the structure was impressive. Its narrative...
Published on 7 Nov 2011 by Peter
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, spellbinding terror.,
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Ghost Tale,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Paperback)The story is about Gerard, a young boy growing up in Australia, the country his mother came to after leaving Staplefield, the country home in England in which she grew up. She tells Gerard very little about her past so one day Gerard unlocks her desk and finds some personal papers. For this his mother beats him but still refuses to speak of her past.
Gerard eventually finds a pen pal called Alice to who he pours out his heart. They fall in love and so begins a courtship that is created on paper. Alice repeatedly refuses to meet him, explaining that she is a paraplegic but with a cure in sight, so wants to wait until she can walk again.
Gerard continues to try and discover more about his background and finds a ghost story written by his Grandmother and learns that she wrote 3 more too. As he grows up he is amazed to realise that his Gran's stories reflect his real life in an uncanny manner.
The ending to this story is when he finally meets Alice and the conclusion is terrifyingly spooky and so desperately saddening.
A terrific Victorian gothic style ghost story. Full of mystery, suspense, romance and surprises. There are twists and turns all the way through that leaves the reader desperately turning the pages as fast as possible. Extremely well written with amazing imagery, this was a superbly haunting tale that I truly enjoyed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old-fashioned mystery improves on second reading,
This is an old-fashioned mystery where clues are peppered throughout the whole novel and the answers are there if you realise what the clues are and can put them all together. It's also a chilling ghost story and gripping read that will have you turning the pages right up to the last page.
If you had a little trouble figuring things out, try the online forum Readerville.com. There is an online discussion and then a stream where the author joins in to answer some questions and clarify some points. This helped me out a great deal.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but enthralling,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Kindle Edition)After reading this and The Séance, I am in no doubt that John Harwood is an accomplished author of the gothic genre. The Ghost Writer is is an interesting concept of ghost stories within a story and it takes a good deal of concentration and careful reading as the ghost stories seem to intertwine and are linked with the main character Gerard's family history. At times, I found it quite complex with the ghost stories becoming very detailed and involved but I was keen to know of Gerard's fate and whether he ever met Alice his long time pen friend. I was a little disappointed with the ending but nevertheless I found it quite an enthralling read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the ghost stories,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Paperback)Gerard Freeman has grown up in Mawson, Australia, listening to his mother's tales of her own childhood at Staplefield, a country estate in England. However, when she finds him going through her private papers one day she is furious and from that moment she refuses to say any more about her past.
Gerard continues to investigate his mother's background and is intrigued when he discovers some ghost stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola Hatherley. Unable to talk to his mother about his discoveries, the only person Gerard can confide in is his English penpal, Alice Jessel. It's only as Gerard grows older and uncovers more of his family history that he begins to understand the full significance of Viola's stories and how they relate to his own life.
I was very impressed by this book. The closest comparison I can make is to Possession by A.S. Byatt. Both books are very well written and have similar structures, with different sections written in different styles and with letters and stories woven into the plot. I did find this an easier and more entertaining read than Possession, though, and at times it also reminded me of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.
Viola Hatherley's ghost stories were my favourite parts of the novel. They were very creepy and I could really believe they'd been written during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I loved the way the ghost stories were connected to Gerard's own story and yet they would have been good enough to stand alone as a separate short story collection too. Often when I read a book containing stories-within-stories I find myself becoming impatient and wanting to get back to the main plot, but not this time! There were four of Viola's stories included in the book (one, The Revenant, is much longer than the other three and almost a novella). The highlight for me was The Gift of Flight, with its descriptions of a sinister doll-like child and a mysterious fog that fills the reading room at the British Museum.
Looking through some other reviews of this book, I've noticed that a lot of readers felt let down by the ending. I don't usually mind being left to make up my own mind at the end of a book, but I can definitely understand why people would be disappointed by the way this one ended. It was very ambiguous and left so much open to interpretation. Despite the ending though, there were so many other things to love about this book: the elegant writing, the intricate plot, the clever structure, the gothic atmosphere, the eerie, unsettling mood and most of all, those excellent Victorian-style ghost stories!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost Writer,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Kindle Edition)Gerald Freeman has a stifling childhood in Mawson, Australia, with a nervous and controlling mother and a virtually invisible father. His mother tells him stories of her childhood home in England, Staplefield, which Gerald loves. The countryside seems everything that dry and dusty Mawson is not. Then, one day he discovers a photo of a woman in a locked drawer in his mothers room. When his mother comes in she loses control, screaming and beating him and, from that day, the stories stop.
Even more isolated, Gerald is amazed when a letter arrives from Penfriends International. He begins to write to Alice Jessell, a young girl who says she lost her parents in an accident and who is unable to walk. For Gerald, whose mother hates him having friends or leaving her alone, isolated and lonely, Alice is a lifeline and he opens himself up to her totally.
Interspersed with this creepy tale are stories that Gerald finds. Stories his mother died trying to keep him from reading... These stories start to mirror events and then Gerald goes to England determined to find out the truth of his mothers life and why she lived in fear. In the house his mother left to go to Australia, Gerald begins to piece together the truth, but will he ever meet the elusive Alice?
This is a very atmospheric novel - creepy rather than frightening, but highly enjoyable and I would certainly read more by this author. This was our October book club choice and it will certainly provide much to discuss.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and awesome,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Paperback)The Ghost Writer is a superbly crafted,ingeniously constructed, elegantly written supernatural novel, a compulsive page-turner which will be enjoyed by connoisseurs of the genre and the more general reader alike. Certainly no afficionado of the Golden Age ghost story---the world of M.R. James, Vernon Lee, 'The Turn of the Screw' and Arthur Machen can afford to miss this novel, but I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys a growing feeling of unease and spooky suspense. Gerard Freeman begins by being intrigued by the discovery of the ghost stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola Hatherley, in the 1890s and ends by being drawn into a web of horror that will have the hairs rising on the back of your neck and will prompt you to check inside your bedroom cupboards before turning off the light. One of the pleasures of this novel is the way in which Viola's fin de siecle stories are woven into the main narrative, and indeed the quality of the stories themselves, which might have come from a long lost copy of The Yellow Book ---the first story, Seraphina, for example, is an elegant pastiche with overtones of 'Dorian Gray'. But Viola's stories are not merely there for decoration----read this novel to discover how Gerard's reading interconnects with his life with chilling results. Don't miss this fabulous book!
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Ghosts or hallucinations--did it make any difference?,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Paperback)One of the most intricate and haunting ghost stories since Turn of the Screw, which it resembles in many ways, The Ghost Writer is captivating, filled with romance, Gothic twists, melodramatic surprises, vibrant imagery, and a series of rich and overlapping stories within stories. Complex and carefully constructed, it is also hugely entertaining, totally involving the reader in good, old-fashioned haunted happenings which turn out to be even eerier than they appear at first.
Young Gerard Hugh Freeman grows up in rural Mawson, Australia, a bleak place that is in marked contrast to Staplefield, the English country house where his mother grew up. Extremely private, she has revealed almost nothing else about her family background, and when Gerald, curious, opens her locked bureau and finds some personal papers, his angry mother refuses to speak about her past at all. Gerald, one the "legions of the lost: the swots, the cowards," eventually finds a pen pal in whom he confides everything, Alice Jessell, a paralyzed English girl whose parents are dead.
Continuing to investigate his mother, Gerald eventually discovers among her belongings an eerie ghost story written by Viola Hatherley, who may or may not be his grandmother, one of four stories she published in "The Chameleon," a short-lived British magazine. As Gerard grows up, he eventually uncovers the remaining three ghost stories by Viola, all as fascinating as the first, and as the reader discovers when these stories are inserted into the novel, the lives of Gerald and his family overlap with the plots of these stories. When he is in his thirties, and still pursing Alice, he finally visits the place in England that appears to be his mother's "Staplefield," and the details of his mother's life suddenly combine with Viola's four vibrant ghost stories to precipitate an intriguing conclusion.
Harwood is a fine writer, giving detailed physical descriptions and creating unforgettable images which reveal similarities among people, surroundings, and events in Viola's four ghost stories. The mystery and suspense begin on the first page, and increase geometrically as Gerard tries to solve his questions while creating even more mysteries. The parallels among the stories and with Gerard's life keep the reader on edge, trying to figure out who Gerard is, how he might fit into these stories, and even whether Gerard's life is a story manipulated by some great, unknown storyteller. Like The Turn of the Screw, this novel leaves the reader with questions--and like that brilliant novel, haunts the reader long after the fun has concluded. Mary Whipple
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for those of a nervous disposition,
This review is from: The Ghost Writer (Paperback)The problem with ghost stories (or horror ones for that matter) is that, as Stephen King points out in "On Writing", at some stage in the story the writer is going to have to show the reader the ghost or the monster. Creaking floorboards and fleeting glimpses of white figures are all very well, but eventually, we want to see what's been tapping at the window, hiding behind the curtains or (in the case of Mr King) eating the neighbourhood cats. And then, once the mask or sheet is off, there is inevitably a sense of "so what" on the part of the reader, because nothing that is on the page can be as scary as what our own imagination provides.
John Harwood has found a way around this difficulty. In "The Ghost Writer" his main character Gerard, a young man trapped by his mother's neurotic fears for his safety, finds part of a ghost story written by his great grandmother. This sets him off on a search for the rest of it during which he comes across other tales by his great grandmother. In the end there are four, none complete, all scary, all hinting at the dark secrets that lie behind Gerard's mother's fears. And because they are all unfinished, Harwood avoids having to reveal what's doing the haunting. Until the very end....
It's a device that works brilliantly. Each story was convincing enough to pull me in and then keep me turning the pages in the hope that Gerard would discover another chapter hidden in a secret drawer or mysteriously left on his doorstep and I would at least find out what happened in one of them. And when the sheet does finally drop and we find out what's been haunting poor old Gerard...Well, let's just say that it scared my mother so much that she had to give the book away at the earliest opportunity, lest the characters creep out from between the pages and start tapping at her windows. Read it if you dare...
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow starter builds to spine cracking terror!,
This is not a fast moving story, at least not initially. The story takes place slowly over years. It reminds me of that saying about boiling a frog (cruel, I know) but they say that if you put a frog in really hot water it jumps straight out but, put it in warm water and heat it slowly a degree at a time and the frog doesn't notice until its boiling alive and can't do anything about it. This is how the suspense deepens in this book from strange to weird to spooky to scary to almost (but never truly) TOO SCARY. Suddenly you are not boiling, but chilled to the bone with little idea quite when you first started to get so scared.
I love the gothic tradition with dark and envolving stories. This has it. I love mysteries. This has a corker and it has the added literary connundrum of stories within stories. This is an absolute class act and the climax creeps up on you so slowly that it just suddenly has you in its grip and it won't let you go. This one lingers in the mind and it is just superb!
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The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (Paperback - 7 April 2005)