Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

The Ghost Writer
by John Harwood
Mariner Books, 2005
384 pages
Literary Mystery/Gothic Suspense
Library Copy

Summary in a Sentence (or two):

Haunted by his mother's mysterious death, timid, solitary Gerard Freeman lives for two things: his elusive pen pal and the secret manuscript that his mother gave her life to protect. Suspecting that something within that manuscript holds the key to his mother's refusal to return to her childhood home, Gerard sets out to unveil the mystery shrouding his family.

My Thoughts:

You know that book you have to carry with you and read as you walk around your house, bumping your shins on coffee tables? That book you can't tear your eyes away from while eating so you accidentally dump lasagna down your chin, and you don't really care? The Ghost Writer is that kind of book. I read incessantly, stopping only for work, sleep, and any other sort of thing that gets in the way of finishing a great book.

All the elements are here: This book is a creepily Gothic, cozily Victorian story within a story, including one of the most frightening scenes ever to take place in a library. It all begins when Gerard finds a ghost story written by his grandmother Viola while snooping through his mother's room. Interspersed throughout Gerard's narrative set in present time are Viola's short stories, which I found to be my favorite part of the book.

Then, I reached the ending. I won't write anything spoiler-ish here for those of you who haven't read the book, because I think you will enjoy it immensely. I just don't think Harwood quite knew how to finish the dang thing. Regardless, I can't wait to read Harwood's next one, The Seance.

~ Read for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge ~

Also Recommended:
Other reviews:

  • Musings of a Bookish Kitty 

  • S. Krishna's Books 

  • We Be Reading


  • 27 comments:

    Britt said...

    Sounds really interesting. And I love the cover!

    SariJ said...

    I read the book a few years ago and completely agree with your review. I fell in love with this book and read it in two days. Like you however I felt the ending really did not do justice to the rest of the book. Still it was such a great Gothic read I would not hesitate to read his next. My library just got the Seance in, I am hoping to find time for it soon.

    A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

    Glad to know I wasn't out in left field or anything about the ending. I hope you get around to The Seance soon!

    Aarti said...

    WOW, this sounds really good! I love books that catch your interest so much. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    Ryan G said...

    Thank you so much for the review since this wasn't a book on my radar before. I'm so going to have to get my hands on this one.

    Milli said...

    That sounds interesting.

    Alyce said...

    I haven't read a whole lot from this genre because I scare easily. This sounds really good though. Is it anything like The Thirteenth Tale? (As far as not being too scary.)

    ArtSparker said...

    Have you red The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas? It's an updated Gothic in a way, She has an ending that is just okay, I think because some stories use all their pyrotechnics getting to the end.

    Ash said...

    This book sounds amazing! I have to add it to my list, I love anything Gothic.

    farmlanebooks said...

    I haven't read this one, but I loved The Seance. I bought a copy of Ghost Writer shortly after finishing The Seance, but haven't got around to reading it yet. I think I'll save it for Halloween this year!

    A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

    Alyce ~ I'm not sure, Alyce, because I haven't read Thirteenth Tale yet! It's on my list to read this year for the Bibliophilic books challenge, though. Ghost Writer is suspenseful rather than downright scary, so I think you could handle it :)

    ArtSpeaker~ No, I've not read Mr. Y. I think you're right about the pyrotechnics bit, that's a great way of putting it!

    FarmLane~ Yes, this is a great Halloween read, although I find myself really craving these books in the winter more for some reason.

    Diane said...

    Awesome review Amanda. I loved this book as well, and I also liked Seance, but not as much as this book.

    Serena said...

    This is a book that was on my wish list forever and then I found it in a used bookstore, but I still haven't gotten to it yet. The book is sitting on my shelf.

    Muse in the Fog said...

    I have often wondered how this book would be. Thank you so much for the great review! I will have to put this on my TBR :)

    A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

    Serena~ I know how that is. I have so many books on my shelf that have been languishing for far too long. I can only read so fast! You'll enjoy it I'm sure whenever you find the time to pick it up.

    Dar said...

    I'm glad to see you liked this. I've had it sitting on my shelf for ages.

    StephanieD said...

    My experience mirrored yours exactly - except it was probably spaghetti, not lasagne :) I know what you mean about the ending. I felt the same way. About The Seance - I would have to say it's not as good as The Ghost Writer - could have been better.

    Lisa said...

    I think that sometimes the authors that start writing without knowing exactly where the book will take them do get to the end without a clear idea of how to finish. Which can be frustrating but if they've made the book wonderful, it's forgivable.

    Kristen M. said...

    I said the same thing when I read this last year -- it was great until the ending! I'm glad that I'm not alone on that.

    Kristi said...

    Your experience with the book sure makes it tempting. I don't have much experience with Gothic novels, but I think that I may have to add this one to my list.

    writergal said...

    I bruise really easily. I'm adding this to my library requests. Yeah! A book that cannot be put down. Sounds exciting.

    Zibilee said...

    I read this book a couple of years ago and felt much the same way as you did. I thought it was tremendously engrossing and couldn't put it down...and then the ending pretty much ruined it for me. Harwood is a master at creating a suspenseful story line, so I will be really excited to read his next book. I just hope he's figured out some better endings! Great review!

    Molly said...

    I so hope to have time to read this book soon. It has all the literary elements that I love in a good fiction book!

    Michelle said...

    This sounds really cool. Thanks for the review; I'll have to add it to my TBR list now!

    Rose City Reader said...

    Sounds like a good one! Thanks for posting your review on the Bibliophilic Book challenge so that I could find it and your blog.

    Nathalie Foy said...

    I love to hear about a book you can't put down. Bruised shins and sauce on face a definite endorsement. Thanks for the warning about the ending. Nothing to interfere with the reading pleasure once you have been warned about the shortcomings (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters was the same for me, gripping until the loose end).

    Misty said...

    It's that kinda book, huh? I need a shin-bumpingly good book right about now. I was uncertain on this one (not sure why) but it's going on the list.
    Thanks!

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