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No spine chiller.
on 5 December 2014
It is interesting to read the wide variety of reactions to this novel. I found the review by A. C. Dickens very close to my own response to this much vaunted book. I have to confess that I have yet to see the film, but as good films are made from bad books and bad ones from good books, that may not be that pertinent.
I, too, was puzzled by the geography. The journey north towards Cumbria seems at odds with what appears to be the ultimate destination: somewhere off the Northumbrian coast. Lindisfarne, Holy Island, is presumably the model for the location of Eel Marsh House.
As Mr Dickens shows the novel is highly derivative. Behind it lie Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, H. P. Lovecraft and perhaps most of all Henry James and one of the few real classics of the ghost story genre: “The Turn of the Screw”. It is difficult, I think, to sustain the view that there is any kind of critique of the genre at work. It seems more like conscious or perhaps sub-conscious borrowing. Likewise, fog is a common place of mystery, horror and suspense and from the London Particular to the fogs that descend upon Eel Marsh House and its environs and the village of Crythin Griffin, much depends on the device here.
There is some fine descriptive prose, though sadly, it seems not to function to heighten atmosphere or tension. In short I found that the book never really caught fire – perhaps the film does, although that has received a panning from a number of reviewers. Disappointing.