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Archive for May 11th, 2007

0156032325_65.jpgThe Ghost Writer
By John Harwood
Harcourt Books
ISBN: 0-15-603232-5
Copyright 2005
Paperback, 384 pages, $14.00

Be prepared to leave the night light on, because this is one of those rare books that will haunt your dreams.

Gerard Freeman is a timid, antisocial librarian who lives with his mother Phyllis—a seemingly cold, strange and secretive woman who appears tormented by something “terrible” that happened in her past. In Gerard’s mind only two things are alive: his mysterious pen pal Alice, with whom he has been exchanging letters for many years, and a story he found hidden in his mother’s drawer years ago written by his great-grandmother Viola. He’s always been curious by his mother’s childhood, but Phyllis never talks about it. In fact, the mere mention of it fills her with an inward terror, not so much for herself as for her son. In spite of Phyllis’ protests, Gerard decides to travel to England to investigate her past and meet his beautiful Alice, who is confined to a wheelchair. As he discovers more of Viola’s stories, a sinister pattern begins to form. But what connects the stories together? Where does his beautiful pen pal Alice fit into all this, and why does she always come up with an excuse to delay their meeting? What, if any, was his mother’s crime? All these questions and more are answered in a hair-raising conclusion that will keep readers glued to the book until the last page.

The author has an exquisite, traditional style that is highly reminiscent of 19th century ghost stories. Harwood has done a brilliant job in creating a complex, intricate plot of “stories within stories,” and achieving a chilling, macabre atmosphere all throughout the novel. There’s no gore; the horror is suggested, making it all the more powerful and ghoulish to the human mind. There’s also an eerie quality of unreality to the story, making the reader wonder what is real and what is dream. Because of this quality, it is important to read the story carefully, especially towards the ending, in order not to be confused. That said, this is one of those books that many people, including this reviewer, will want to read a second time just for the pure pleasure of it.

The Ghost Writer is an addictive, totally absorbing read. Fans of ghost stories will relish this one. So will anyone who enjoys a beautifully written, mesmerizing novel with lots of suspense and heavy atmosphere.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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