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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 9 November 2015
This is not the easiest book to read, but it is interesting nevertheless. It has a quality of a feverish dream, where bits and pieces refuse to fall in place in the beginning, but make sense later on.

It is not a ghost story as such, nor it is a straightforward vampire tale. It is a bit reminiscent of some of the Stephen King's novels in a way that tells you about a group of ordinary men facing extraordinary circumstances and having to deal with supernatural beings. They have to stand up to it because no other choice is available, and they fight, whatever the cost is.

Peter Straub uses some traditional tools of the genre, like a heavy snowfall that cuts the small American town away from the outside world and creates a perfect playground for the bloodthirsty paranormal creatures. This adds to the "atmosphere". The fact that the creatures are capable of manipulating mind and memories, as well as dead people, adds to the challenges met by the group of heroes in the story.

The story is not linear, it goes to the past and back to present in order to build the layers explaining why each person is involved. A harmless hobby of ghost storytelling by elderly, highly educated, well-off men has it's roots in a disturbing encounters many years earlier. A younger but equally intelligent writer meets a woman who turns his life upside down and is somehow related to the evil encountered by the older men. A sensitive and bright boy turns out to be capable to fight the greatest fears of his life. And all threads meet up in the town buried by the snowstorm.

The characters are well defined and a lot of them are likeable and recognisable, as if they were people you have once met. The "beings" are a bit more elusive, so you are not entirely sure what they are, where they came from, who is in charge and if there are many of them. But this is what makes the book captivating, too.

I think it is more intelligent and better written than a lot of books in this genre. I only gave it four stars because English is not my first language and at times I found the prose a bit difficult.
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Ghost story was originally published in 1979 and is now available as a Kindle download.

A group of friends form the Chowder Society, a type of dressy supper club, take it in turns to tell stories after dinner. One of the members of the Society mysteriously dies, murder or accident?, and his death turns the remaining members away from traditional stories and propels them towards darker, murkier tales of ghosts and the supernatural. Are they being haunted?. The strange thing is; once the story telling stops strange events seem to worm their way up through the darkness, into their dreams and then out into their daily lives. Fanatasy becomes reality and stories turn into prediction. What they foresee for one another is far from pleasant. What dreadful entity is working it's way slowly and sneakily into their once calm and privileged world?.

There's a nice sense of eeriness throughout the story. It's gently spooky. The mystery is slow to unfold and the ending comes as something of a surprise.

A little bit on the old fashioned side in terms of language and themes but still worth a read if you're into traditional ghost stories.
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on 6 March 2015
Ghost Story (1981) by Peter Straub is, I believe, one of the best horror novels written during the twentieth century. I have a vague list of my top twentieth-century genre novels in the back of my mind; these include Robert Bloch, Psycho (1959), Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), Jack Finney, The Body Snatchers (1955), Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs (1988), Robert Heinlein, The Puppet Masters (1951), Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959), Stephen King, It (1986), John D MacDonald, The Executioners aka Cape Fear (1962), Richard Matheson, I Am Legend (1954) ... and of course, Ghost Story.

The novel begins with two characters: Donald Wanderley and a teenage girl, who he may or may not have kidnapped. It then switches to the Chowder Society, and one year previous. Milburn, Upstate New York, winter: four elderly men meet up to tell ghost stories (they have been doing this for fifty years). There used to be five of them, but one passed away the year before with a look of horror on his face. The remaining four have since suffered nightmares relating to an inadvertent act carried out during their past. They now decide they can bury a dark past relating to their youth and possibly an act of murder.

Stephen King said of Ghost Story that it is ''the best of the supernatural novels to be published in [...] the 1970s.'' This ode to Henry James's Turn of the Screw offers strong characters, a solid plot, plenty of twists and turns, and a chill around each turn of the page. It surely marks the watershed era of Straub, his other defining offerings being Julia (1975) and If You Could See Me Now (1977). This is a weighty novel in terms of word count; and yet, reading it does not seem a chore. Rather, the text is fluid and before you know it the last page is finished and you hunger for more. That, above all else, is the mark of a good writer.
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on 22 September 2011
This is one of the best supernatural stories I have ever read. Really have no idea why some reviewers can't finish it or find it boring, I had to literally stop myself reading it or would have carried on all night. The finely drawn atmosphere of dread and menace increases throughout the book and is allied to superb characterisation and an intricate, page turning plot. I am a huge fan of Stephen King and have read all his books, and especially like IT, the Stand and the Talisman (which Straub co-wrote). I can now clearly see where some of his influences come from and it is this book - small town America under attack, the ever present threat from the past and non human beings whose malevolence is almost beyond comprehension.

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on 1 December 2002
This is the best book I've read in the contemporary Horror genre. I've been buying Straub's later books in hopes that he can repeat the performance he carried off in this one and have been dissapointed with the results (Shadowland was a fun read, however).
Actually, in terms of sheer good writing, I would have to rank one of his earliest novels, Julia, as the most comparable. This book really got under my skin and even pervaded my unconscious while I was reading it. I found myself dreaming in Straub's cadences. This is a tour-de-force horror story, and yes, does rival James' The Turn of the Screw in terms of aritistry. Hopefully, sometime Straub will turn out another one of this calibre.
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on 7 September 2015
The first 60% is possibly one of the best thriller / horror books I have read. A great, creeping story, building in suspense, with brilliant characters and a wonderful jigsaw puzzle of a story line, then... its almost like Straub got bored, killed everyone off quickly, and mashed a hugely disappointing and unnecessarily violent ending together. Loved Mr Clubb and Mr Cuff, ultimately disappointed with this. Shame.
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on 15 March 2015
Fantastic book. Was gripped the entire way through. The main characters were likeable and the content was genuinely creepy. Everything I expect in a good ghost story. There were so many characters, which some people may find hard work, but I loved writing notes on them all and keeping up with the story that way.
Very long book but almost felt sad to finish it as I enjoyed reading it so much.
Best book I've read in ages.
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on 17 February 2013
This is a cracking story that I first read in hardback half a lifetime ago and was chuffed to discover as now being available on kindle. Time will tell if it has aged well, but it I remember a real page turner. A well flowing read that was unpredictable and gripping, with interesting characters that you actually cared about. Must go - Peter Straub book to rediscover.
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on 9 April 2012
'Ghost Story' is a must-read for fans of fiction. It ranks as one of Straub's best, alongside Shadowland and Koko. The story of the 'Chowder Society' and the gradual unraveling of their dark mystery is tense, taut, and terrifying. This book zings like a high voltage wire. An unforgettable classic.
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on 23 February 2016
I really looked forward to reading this book. I had it on my wish list for months before finally buying the book. I found the plot first class and the ending brilliant but I found the plot a bit slow to unravel. It was so slow that I nearly gave up on the book a number of times.
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