Sunday, 24 February 2013
What I've Been Reading:
'The Birthing House' by Christopher Ransom
So, I finished reading this book nearly a week ago and yet I just haven't gotten round to writing a review yet. Mainly because I've been plagued with migraines that have made me just want to curl up in bed and never get out again but partly because it just wasn't as good as I hoped it would be.
When I spied this novel in a local charity shop for £2, it looked exactly like my kind of book and at such a bargain rate, I snapped it up. The premise was great - a couple move into their dream house, hoping for a fresh start and things seem to be going well until the husband discovers a Victorian photograph bearing the exact likeness of his very un-Victorian wife. And then a whole load of ghostly goings on begin to plague them in their new home. Sounds great, right? Well not so much actually.
I think one of the main problems was that I simply did not connect enough with either the main character, un-employed screenwriter Conrad, or his mostly-absent-from-the-plot wife Jo. Ransom didn't give us enough back-story to this tormented couple and the disintegration of their marriage. I connected more with some of the peripheral characters such as Nadia, the next door neighbours pregnant daughter, which is a bit weird and made the reading process un-enjoyable because I spent a lot of time wanting to read more about her and her past, rather than the main characters.
There were aspects of the plot that weren't explained properly - the fact that the woman in the photo looks like Conrad's wife is shoddily rationalised. As is the origin of the snake eggs. Those eggs could have been a much better plot point but they seemed to be abandoned hastily towards the end of the novel. The 'Doctor', a creepy entity mentioned right at the beginning of the novel doesn't reappear until the very end of the novel, his existence never really fully explained.
The back of this book exclaimed "The scariest book since 'The Shining'". In what reality this statement is true I cannot imagine. This book wasn't really all that horrifying. There was one scene that got me feeling a little chilled - a creepy popsicle stick doll animatedly moving around the room. I really hoped there would be more chill-inducing prose but I was disappointed. Every now and then Ransom would mention a click-clicking noise on the stairs or in the hallway or wherever, obviously intended to make the naive reader assume that creepy little doll was coming back. But after the first time it turned out to be the clicking of the dog's nails on the wooden floor, I got the idea. I don't think any reader is stupid enough to fall for that lame technique twice. Or god knows however many times he used it.
This book was also way too full of pointless swearing and gratuitous sex for my liking. Don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to the odd sex scene in a novel but when it's there for the sake of it and not for plot development, I get a bit sick of it.
As I said, this novel was full of promise. A creepy old house where ghostly babies cry in the night and horrendous little dolls move of their own accord is definitely my ideal read. But this was just so poorly put together that I would never recommend it to anyone. Such a disappointing read.