“We see things, but we don’t believe them; we feel things—people watching us, sinister things following us—but we dismiss them as fantasies. We dream horrors, but try to forget them. And in the meantime, three people have died.”
– Ricky Hawthorne (Ghost Story by Peter Straub)
Over the weekend, I read five horror novels, but none of them managed to frighten and disturb and fascinate me as the one I finished reading only a few days earlier, as the fourth and the last book for the R.I.P. Challenge. Peter Straub‘s Ghost Story is a homage to the best novels of the horror genre, and an amazing one at that.
Summary: The book opens with a man driving a strange little girl in his car, in the middle of nowhere. He seems to have kidnapped her, but is more scared of her than she is of him. Right when he is about to kill her, about to drive his knife through her… the scene changes.
Milburn is a fictional small town in upstate New York. An ageing bachelor, Sears James and his friend Ricky Hawthorne are attorneys. They also form half of what is now left of the Chowder Society. The Chowder Society is originally a group of five friends, who gather every month to drink and talk. That is, until one of them, Edward Wanderley, dies under mysterious circumstances, exactly a year before this story takes place. What is left now is the two attorneys, a doctor Joseph Jaffrey and Lawrence Benedikt. The Chowder Society meetings are private and the four don’t talk about business or politics. They tell stories. Every month, one of them tells a ghost story – the scariest thing that ever happened to him. That is, until, one day that scary thing returns and their past comes back to haunt them.
My thoughts: Ghost Story is a huge book, not only in size. ‘Vast’ may be a better word to describe it. It has numerous back-stories of numerous characters intricately woven together to form one novel. The book is not about one vampire, or one ghost – but the whole idea – the thing that takes on different forms to make us afraid, the thing that has lived in every culture in every country, and prevailed through all these years. The original evil.
What I really like about the book is that it is more like a psychological thriller than a story with slimy white ghosts and creepy noises. I have never been more terrified of descriptions of fear and I’ve never been more certain, that someone’s following me.
The characters are wonderful. It’s a long story and you have a long time to get to know them. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears when anything happened to my favourite people. It is amazing to get so involved in a story, and to be able to relate so closely to something about ghosts and demons!
The book is a recommended read for anyone, even those who haven’t read the genre before or don’t consider themselves horror fans. Believe me, once you read this book, you’ll want to read more horror fiction; I know I did!