A multi-layered story set partly in Australia and partly in the UK, with stories inside stories and lots of freaky goings-on. Hard to describe--suffice it to say, it's very suspenseful and very difficult to put down particularly in the early going. With elements of suspense, Gothic horror, mystery, and fantasy, I selected it as my 'spooky read' for October 2006. It wasn't what I'd call out-and-out 'scary' but definitely a bit spooky and an inspirer of weird dreams. I can see it being made into a very suspenseful movie if done right!
While it was compelling, at the same time, there were moments when I felt the story bogged down and just got too convoluted especially towards the end--despite that, I had pretty much figured out the thing way before the end so it wasn't a huge surprise. I thought the main character was--I don't know. A bit of a dip? Way too gullible to be believed? But still, very inventive storytelling and enjoyable nonetheless.
I read Harwoods, debut novel, "The Ghost Writer" based on an "If you liked" recommendation after reading "The Thirteenth Tale" and overall was not disappointed. Harwood has ingeniously created three subplots in one book: first, the tale of the protagonist, Gerard, a lonely young man and his quest to unravel the mysterious past of his mentally unstable mother, Phyllis. Gerard relocates to England hoping to find her childhood home and piece together the events that unraveled her relationship with her older sister, Anne.
The second story within the book, revolves around Gerard's grandmother, an aspiring author who wrote ghost stories. Gerard discovers her stories hidden in his mother's room and at her childhood home in England. These tales are satisfyingly creepy, mysterious, and intriguing.
In the third story, Gerard has corresponded with a pen-pal, Alice, for over a decade and fallen in love even though they have never met. Besides investigating his family's history, Gerard hopes to meet Alice with the hopes of having their long-distance relationship change into one more romantic and physical.
Gerard is mousey, bookish, and emotionally withdrawn, much like Margaret in The Thirteenth Tale, which creates such a sharp contrast when compared to other flamboyant, creepier characters. I also agree with other reviewers comments that the ending Hardwood wrote has it's faults: a bit awkward, confusing, and ultimately, not that surprising.
If any of the creepiness of The Thirteenth Tale had the hair on the back of your neck standing up, The Ghost Writer offers much more. This book offers you suspense, paranoia, fantasy, unrequited love, deceit and murder. For a gothic horror read, I was not disappointed.
A fairly gripping plot about a man who has had a penpal since childhood, whom he has never met, but with whom he has fallen in love. There is some mysterious connection between the penpal and other aspects of the main character's life; the secrets are revealed as the book goes on. Reminded me a bit of "Shadow of the Wind." The final reveal is a bit predictable and therefore disappointing, but on the whole a good read.
Gerard, a lonely boy living in Australia, begins a life-long relationship with a penpal when he is thirteen. However, his penpal, a beautiful girl named Alice, refuses to send him pictures or to meet him even after years of correspondence. His schizophrenic mother does not want Gerard to have a penpal. Does this have something to do with her mysterious life before coming to Australia and some strange pictures and ghost stories that Gerard found in her room?
This book was very interesting. Not only do you get the story of Gerard, but the author also intersperses three Victorian-style ghost stories in the book. These stories (which Gerard discovers were written by his aunt) give clues to the greater mystery of his his mother's earlier life. The end was a little difficult to follow, but in all a creepy story worthy of a read!
The best ghost story I've read in about 20 years. Totally original plot that really keeps you guessing until the end. If you're a fan of old fashioned ghost stories without blood, gore, dismembered bodies, etc., you'll enjoy this immensely.
Indeed this is a ghost story. It's also a mystery, a thriller and a tale of family love/hate/secrets. Very well written
Really started out good and creepy. I thought the ending was a let down, though.
What a wonderful book! I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I have picked this book up many times before finally purchasing it, and in the past, would set it down after reading the back description, which just didn't spark my interest at all. Now that I have read this book, I am amazed at how little justice the back description gave the book. Not only does this have a solid plot, but the writing is more vivid and intense than a Victorian-inspired novel tends to be. What really set this book apart was its unique structure - a main narrative interspersed with short stories, letters and diary entries. And the way the story unfolds the different structural elements don't in any way detract from the developing action. Nothing seems choppy or anything like that. The book is a great story and an impressive piece of writing from a technical and as well as entertainment standpoint. I am looking forward to reading more by him!
As a college student I find myself craving some one-on-one me time. This book was a great way to indulge myself. It is suspenseful without being cheesy and with a plot that wasn't too easy to figure out, this book is, as they say, a thrilling page-tuner.
Fun and fast paced with twists.
Very well written. A really good ghost story. It will keep you guessing.
Stories within stories keep the reader guessing.
I'm a sucker for a good ghost story and this filled that need. The sub-stories really added to the gothic tale, although it would have been nice to have had some better transitions and synopsis to help keep up with each layer and its characters. The last chaper left me with mixed emotions. Was it genius or poor writing? You decide.
The Cornish prayer: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!" is an appropriate invocation when reading The Ghost Writer, John Harwoods debut novel. It is a rousing good ghost story, with many twists and turns, rather like taking apart a Russian matryoshka nesting doll.
Gerard Freeman, at age ten, sneaks into his mother's room and unlocks a secret drawer, only to find a picture of a woman he has never seen before, but one that he will find again and again. His mother discovers him and gives him the beating of his life. Why this excessive reaction? She is a worried, paranoid, thin, and fretful type with an "anxious, haunted look." By tale's end, we know why.
A young man compulsively searches for the truth about his emotionally remote mother and falls in love with a mysterious "pen friend."
Interesting storyline and the characters were intriguing. I did think, however, that the story dragged on a little longish and the ending left me feeling let down. Guessed part of the plot about 60 or 70% through but some of it was a surprise. That said, it was still an enjoyable, intriguing read.
A lad in the Australia bush with his expat British Mum finds a girl pen friend in England. An inevitable romance develops as they grow up. He goes to England to visit her and to discover more about his mysterious mum's family. Finding out more about either one is difficult and the story becomes a chilling possible murder,history-ghost mystery. Very well told Victorian style tale, set in the recent past.
Very interesting read once you get past the cadenced beginning...
I thought this was a pretty good read, I enjoy the Gothic feel, something sinister up ahead. It was a little creepy, and kept me interested throughout.
I felt as though the main character had allot more patience with his pen pal than I would have had and I felt that in a "real" situation no one would have put up with all her diversions, and not find it at all odd. There are many twists, and a story within the story.
Literary mystery - Australian author
I really enjoyed this Gothic horror story about a young man living in Australia with his family who happens on to some secrets of his mother's including a photo of a young unknown woman and a story written, as it turns out, by his mother's grandmother, Viola. Along the way, the boy, Gerard, becomes "penfriends" with a young girl, Alice, who lives in England who had been in an accident where she lost her parents and became paralyzed. Gerard writes to Alice for years and looks forward to finally meeting her in England. Then after his mother dies, he receives some correspondence from a woman who had known his mother's sister in England who had disappeared not long after Gerard's mother moved to Australia. Gerard goes to England and ends up searching his mother's old house for answers including whether or not his mother had killed her sister. Woven into the novel are several ghost stories written by Viola that seem to relate to the history of Gerard's family. All of this leaves one with a feeling of dread throughout the novel as Harwood expertly weaves his tale of terror. Overall, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it even though the ending was a little bit open to interpretation. I also have Harwood's second novel, The Seance and look forward to reading it.
An interesting book. I wish I would have read it quickly, in a few days!