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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Decent novel for those who enjoy a spooky ghost story with plenty of atmosphere and clever psychological twists.

The plot is complicated, slow to take off and never easy to guess. After a prolonged introduction to the two key characters, a married couple who have settled for what they can get rather than reached for what they want, the story takes off and becomes a rather punchy, dark ghost story with plenty of mystery. There's something happening all of the time to throw you off track. Just when you think you've got a handle of what's happening the author throws in another clue, a different angle, and makes you think again.

The hero of the story is a wealthy man complete with house in the country and membership of a private club in London. There's a lot of hunting, dinner parties and Land Rovers. He's obviously mixed up about a great many things, not the least of which is the strange disappearance of his father years ago, but once he experiences the first in a string of weird events the mystery begins. There's a nice play on the theme of reality v insanity or; is it really down to the supernatural after all?.

'The Girl on the Landing' is melodramatic and brooding. The story runs true to traditional ghost stories from the past in that it's more about building the story than it is about providing shocks. There's much here you'll recognise if you're a fan of supernatural fiction; dilapidated old house in the middle of nowhere, a disappearance, a marriage in trouble and hints of insanity. Paul Torday brings those themes up-to-date while paying obvious homage to much of what has gone before; Rebecca, Turn of the Screw and so forth.

I wouldn't say 'The Girl on the Landing' is scary, at least it wasn't for me, but what the novel has is a slowly building, dark atmosphere and a strong story-line which I found engaging. Didn't put me on the edge of my seat but certainly made me feel uncomfortable.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 January 2012
This is a well-written modern take on the gothic/supernatural genre, updated with some important things to say about modern ideas of psychosis, identity and our dependency on drugs to recreate a state of so-called mental `normality'.

Torday flips effortlessly between eerie scenes of possibly haunted paintings and possession drawing on classic ghostly tales by writers like M.R. James; but gives it a The Turn of the Screw spin that leaves us constantly unsure about what is `real' and what is in the mind of Michael.

The beginning, especially, has some very chilling moments that had me reading this with all the lights switched on, and I liked the way the book subtly transforms itself into something different. The tale maintains its enigmatic air right to the end and never resolves itself in any easy manner.

Beautifully plotted, written and imagined, this had me utterly absorbed.
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on 1 September 2015
ok
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on 28 October 2015
Book in very good condition, just as described.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 January 2014
This is the story of Michael & Elizabeth who have been quite safely married for 10 years. Michael has "private means" and runs a Scottish Estate from a distance. Elizabeth works for a magazine. Life is quite uneventful until they go to stay with aquaintances in Ireland and Michael begins to change.
This is a very clever book. Elizabeth has been married for 10 years to a slightly dull Michael who is, to be perfectly honest, quite boring. As he changes, however, Elizabeth starts to like the new Michael whilst at the same time being slightly afraid. The reasons for Michael's change are quite complex & there are 2 possible reasons for it, the logical, medical one & the slightly mysterious, hinting on the supernatural one. The author never actually comes down on either side of the above reasons, leaving the reader to make their own decision. I like it when an author does this as it leaves me thinking about the story when I am away from the book &, in my opinion, is the sign of a good writer.
Michael is a very complex character who develops throughout the book. I wonder if the author took his behaviour a step too far. I wasn't totally convinced by some of his actions towards the end. Elizabeth was a very convincing character. She obviously loves Michael & you can sense her internal conflict as she is fearful for him but also afraid of him.
This is a fast moving book which flowed very well. It wasn't so gripping that I struggled to put it down but it certainly held my attention whilst I was reading & was also in my mind when I was away from the book. A slightly different book that is well written with great characters.
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on 29 December 2012
I enjoyed the movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and I expected this book to be rather good. Well, it wasn't. It has no style whatsoever to pull you in through the sheer power of language. And it doesn't have much of a story either. It's trying to take further a story of and about mental illness, but it doesn't pull it off. The characters are better developed than the story, but not exceptionally so. I wasn't compelled to finish reading the book, but since it's such a thin volume, I decided I would.

I didn't think this book was very deep in any way. I expected a skillful storyteller and writer and got instead a pretty bland book with very little substance. I wish there was more to praise about this book. The only thing that's relatively OK are the characters, but they don't move the story along. The whole book is rather disjointed. The narrator decided to reveal stuff now and then (and too much of his asides look overblown, lecture-like) and the characters have to get on that wave. But it doesn't flow naturally.

I give it 1.8 stars.
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on 21 December 2013
Reading Paul Torday's novel "The Girl on the Landing" makes one want to paraphrase Joseph Heller's quote from "Catch 22" to read: "Just because you're [being treated for] paranoid [schizophrenia], doesn't mean they aren't really after you". The story here is about Michael and his wife, Elizabeth. They've been married for ten years and have a relationship that is best described as "they get along well together." That is, until a strange incident in Ireland when Michael sees a girl on the landing of the house they're staying at. Soon after that, Michael seems to change - he's suddenly become more affectionate and loving. This makes Elizabeth ignore his slightly erratic behavior. But just when it seems that Elizabeth is finally finding the man she always hoped for, their whole lives begin to fall apart.

This story is actually part mystery and part fantasy. The mystery comes in when Elizabeth begins to see the changes in Michael. Despite her wanting to just enjoy it, she realizes that it isn't all rosy and begins investigating what is the cause behind the change. The fantasy part is Michael's visions and his being tortured by them. Then we find that Michael suddenly stopped taking medication that Elizabeth wasn't even aware he was taking. So there is a medical background to Michael's changed behavior. Even so, Torday seems to suggest that perhaps Michael isn't crazy at all, and what he's going through is something very real. As we toggle between their two stories, we slowly become acquainted with them, together with the intensifying situation. In this way, Torday melds the plot together with the characters so that they seem to drive the story forward with almost equal power. This is because Michael's almost Jekyll and Hyde situation makes the character himself become part of the plot. Of course, adding to this is Elizabeth and how all this effects her and her world.

What the reader will find with Torday's work, and in particular this novel, is that he truly knows how to get to the heart of a story quickly and then pull his readers in. This not only makes them very fast reads, but fascinating ones as well. In fact, you might get so involved with this story that you'll hardly notice the 300 plus pages going by, since it's so jam-packed with action. What's more is that Torday does it in such an easy-going and comfortable language. Since this novel is two different accounts of the same story as told by this couple in an almost diary entry form, it isn't hard to imagine that the tone of the writing is very conversational. The primary reason for using this method is to keep from using descriptive passages that sound dead and boring, since you are basically reading the narrator's thoughts straight his or her head.

Fans of Torday's who have read his first novel "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" will know of his ability to find an absurd situation, bring in a good dramatic climax while keeping the reader smiling. However, this novel has little to no humor in it at all. In fact, it is very dark which makes it almost difficult to believe that these two novels were written by the same person. However, there is one similarity in these two stories. That is, the inclusion of something which one can't say couldn't actually be realistic, even though it does seem highly unlikely. In the case of this story, while it is highly unlikely that Michael is having anything more than hallucinations, can one discount the evidence that there might be something real behind it all. The answering of that question is the last element Torday has used to truly capture the reader.

After all this praise, one must come to the ever-present "however..." section. The most major drawback has to do with Elizabeth. In this day and age, it seems unusual that any woman would "settle" for someone that she knew she didn't love in order to have financial stability and comfortable companionship. This would seem especially true for someone as attractive and intelligent as Elizabeth. Furthermore, since Elizabeth is a career woman, it isn't like she had to be gold-digger. So this marriage seems a bit more Jane Austin-like than 21st century. However, Torday does allow that Elizabeth was initially attracted to Michael when they first met - and not to his money. Still, was this enough to make this something the reader can accept, and more importantly, is it okay for a character's back story to be only "possibly realistic, despite being unlikely"? Perhaps, in this case it was somewhat necessary. Still, it might have been more realistic and far more likely had Elizabeth really loved him to begin with. This also would have made her frustration in the marriage more understandable, as well as her reluctance to figure out why he was changing. This made Elizabeth less of a sympathetic character than she could have been.

The other problem is that Michael seems a bit less fleshed out than he should be. Seeing as everything in the story revolves around his personality change, he could have had a bit more focus. One can only think that either Torday thought it would be better to keep him clouded in mystery as much as possible, or that he wasn't sure how to chronicle the thoughts of a man as he takes steps he knows might drive him crazy.

All told, Paul Torday's novel "The Girl on the Landing" is a well crafted novel that will appeal to a large audience. While the characters are on the quirky side, they are interesting, although they seem to lack in certain places. However, the plot is dark, fascinating and gives one food for thought about mental illness and if some types of disturbed states might not have some basis in the outside world. However, Torday does know how to grab his readers, and his style is one that makes reading his books a pleasure. For all of this, "The Girl on the Landing" deserves four out of five stars, and is recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 14 October 2009
I found this book an enjoyable and easily readable book, although the twists and ending were a little predictable. The story concerns the rather staid husband and wife relationship of a reasonably wealthy man, who shares his time between a job as the membership secretary of a London gentleman's club and his rather run-down shooting estate in Scotland, and his wife who dislikes the club environment, most of the members and the Scottish lodge. Not exactly the ingredients for a lively relationship. However, the husband's secret past comes back to haunt them both, and the book culminates in a climax set in Scotland. I can't really say much more about the plot to prevent spoiling, although it is rather predicatble. There is some attempt at supernatural ambiguity woven in, presumably to add interest and keep the reader guessing, but this isn't really too convincing for me. The book explores relationships, mental health, and the extent to which two people can ever really know each other. The book is written in the first person, but with alternating scenes and chapters where the husband and wife are narrating.
Enjoyable, easy reading although not difficult to see where it is all going.
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on 13 April 2010
I found this to be a good novel to read on a dark winter night for some ghostly Gothic atmosphere - and it is a spooky story full of atmosphere, ideal for picking up at bedtime.

It begins like a ghost story, morphs into a psychological thriller, twists into mental illness, then becomes a murder mystery wrapped in superstition around a love story with elements of the supernatural. You never find out exactly what the main character is (or is not), but you are by no way 'left hanging' and the ultimate ending is intelligently left to the reader. Phew, trying to categorize that one was a bit of a stretch. Don't let that put you off as this book's is kind of spooky mystery full of atmosphere. It's like a modern-day Gothic novel with more than a nod to the old Gothic classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Gray, The Lady in White, The Pit & the Pendulum, etc., but with a contemporary setting.

It will appeal to young, old, male, female, and has something that will appeal to most (especially if you like novels of suspense, ghosts and a supernatural slant) readers.
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on 2 March 2009
This is a tale of creeping menace, combining a chilling portrait of a couple's passionless marriage with a good old fashioned ghost story. Torday evokes the Scottish highlands with particular skill. The hills and dark woods surrounding Micheal's estate are filled with strange winds and voices. Nothing is quite what it seems.

At a time when so many writers are busy experimenting with form and technique, it is a joy to read a book that focuses so resolutely on great storytelling. Torday is a writer of literary fiction who is also a pleasure to read.

That's not to say the book doesn't have depth or intrigue. The book's eerie tone is reminiscent of 'The Turn of the Screw' or even Robert Browning's terrifying tale 'My Last Duchess.'

Curl up on a dark night, light a flickering candle and prepare for a treat!
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