- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Hammer (3 July 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099590824
- ISBN-13: 978-0099590828
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.4 x 20.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 680,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Touched Hardcover – 3 Jul 2014
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"I read it with great delight. A delicious page-turning treat." (Barbara Trapido)
"Totally wonderful. Touched makes me mindful of Dylan Thomas, it's so poetic and haunting; Joanna Briscoe is a truly lovely writer" (Penny Vincenzi)
"a ghost story interwoven with crime, love and horror. It works on every level….Touched is a finely balanced creation, reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Briscoe’s prose is sensuous, poetic, light. The rhythm is delicately controlled. A strange, fascinating tale." (Financial Times)
"Touched is a gripping novella, a waking nightmare in the home counties that is both erotic and claustrophobic. There's a woozy atmosphere of menace, a satirical stab at Britain's post-war commuter-belt aspirations, and an elegant, postmodern, cine-literate twist…Touched has something of The Turn of the Screw, certainly, but with it, the brasher influence of Ira Levin, or Anthony Shaffer, screenwriter of The Wicker Man. …This is a haunting and disquieting parable" (Guardian)
"that sense of suffocation and slowly creeping madness is something that Touched - the latest novella from the Hammer horror imprint - expertly mines" (Daily Mail)
"An old fashioned, scary horror story" (Sunday Mirror)
"Haunting novella from Joanna Briscoe…a disorientating ride" (Grazia)
A chilling, deeply creepy Hammer novella by Joanna Briscoe, author of the acclaimed, bestselling novel, Sleep With Me.See all Product description
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Touched is nice and creepy, but in a deft and nuanced way. The prose is elegant, the language exquisite. We’re in Henry James territory here – never quite sure whether something horrendous is being done to the children, or whether the children are the ones doing something horrendous. Indeed, a big part of why this all works so beautifully is the way Briscoe wields our collective memories of 1960s Britain as a double-edged sword. By choosing to set the novel in a time when children still enjoyed the right to roam wild in the long vacs, yet before women/mothers enjoyed the right to be taken at their word when they said a child was missing, Briscoe ingeniously harnesses the period to deliver an is-she-or-isn’t-she plot about a missing daughter (or two), while at the same time continually wrong-footing the reader by alternating moments of soft-focus nostalgia with more haunting aspects of our shared cultural history. (I particularly loved the image which stays with Rowena from the Kennedy assassination.)
An inherent tension in novels which so much as hint at anything supernatural at work is that there comes a point when the author has to pony up and tell the reader whether it’s real or imagined. No matter which way they jump, they risk crushing the expectations of readers whose hearts were in the other camp. Of course, some writers prefer to just sneak off the pitch and leave the reader to fend for herself. My God how I hate it when this happens. I loathe spoilers, so all I can say is that far from shying away from this problem, Briscoe clearly revelled in it. Without warning she was dragging my by the roots of my hair and hurtling me into a solution so darkly clever and unexpected that I defy you to read Touched and feel anything but blind admiration.
Novels which can deliver an ending which is both truly horrifying and yet hugely satisfying at the same time are all too rare. In this case, I was reminded of that trick where the magician rips the cloth off an elaborately laid table and that split second where you’re holding your breath, bracing for the sound of breaking glass. In a masterly stroke of literary conjuring, it only took Briscoe a handful of words to rip the veil away. Not a single plate or glass was disturbed, but I was thrown into a completely different vantage point. Suddenly, it all made perfect sense. Then, it hit me. It actually had the whole time. It’s just that, hopeless romantic that I am, I chose to only see what I wanted to see.
If I could, I’d give Touched five stars for everything up until the moment I’m desperately trying not to give anything away about, and then another five for everything that comes next – including a fascinating ‘afterword’ about how she came to write the book. (Don’t even think about looking at this until the end.)
Overall, while Touched represents something of a departure (or, is it an evolution?) in form, it nevertheless dovetails nicely with her earlier titles Sleep With Me and You. What I always love about Briscoe’s uncanny and unsettling worlds is that not just actions, but feelings, always carry consequences. In the case of Touched, anyone and everyone who is still standing will go on being haunted by the things which have always haunted them. Because this is how hauntings - whether they are caused by unearthly presences, or are simply manifestations of anger, guilt, jealousy and fear, or more poignantly, of lust and love – actually work.
Oh – and, just in case this helps tempt you – it is technically a novella, and so ideal for rattling through in one sitting.
The Crales and their five children move from London to the Hertfordshire village of Crowsley Beck in the summer of 1963. They are renovating and knocking through two cottages, one of which belonged to Douglas Crale's late mother. Soon their longed-for idyll starts to crumble, literally, exposing resentments and envy along with the damp interiors of The Farings cottages. When 'touched' child Eva and then eerily perfect Jennifer disappear, who or what is undermining their lives? A smattering of local characters add colour, such as the aptly-named neighbour Gregory Dangerfield, local actress Lally Lyn and the smooth Pollards.
The new Hammers are a mixed bag so far, but this builds a nice sense of menace and doesn't as so often happens deflate it with an anti-climactic ending. A good summer (or autumn evening) read.
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