Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother's room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman's life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life?
Gerard's quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive.
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The Ghost Writer, John Harwood's debut novel, is a rousing story with many twists and turns--rather reminiscent of taking apart a Russian matryoshka nesting doll. Gerard Freeman, aged 10, 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.
Phyllis Freeman, Gerard's mother, was happiest when speaking fondly of Staplefield, her childhood home, where there were things they "didn't have in Mawson [Australia]--chaffinches and mayflies and foxgloves and hawthorn, coopers and farriers and old Mr Bartholomew who delivered fresh milk and eggs to their house with his horse and cart." It's the sort of childhood idyll that the timid and lonely Gerard believes in and longs for. He strikes up a correspondence with an English penfriend, Alice Jessel, when he is 13 and a half, living in a desolate place with a frantic mother and a silent father. She is his age, her parents were killed in an accident and she has been crippled by it. She now lives in an institution, and her description of the grounds sounds much like his mother's description of Staplefield. They go through young adulthood together, in letters only, thousands of miles apart, eventually declaring their love for one another.
Interwoven with the narrative of Alice and Gerard's letters are real ghost stories, the creation of Gerard's great-grandmother, Viola. At first, they seem to be scary Victorian tales of the supernatural. Then we see that they have a spooky way of mirroring, or preceding, events in real life, off the page. Gerard comes upon them, one by one, in mysterious ways, but clearly something, or someone, is leading him. The stories seem to implicate his mother in some nefarious goings-on, but the truth is far worse than Gerard imagines.
Any more would be telling too much. Turn on all the lights in the house when you settle down with this one, and plan to spend a long time reading because you will be lost in the story immediately. --Valerie Ryan, Amazon.comReview:
"Atmospheric debut novel" (Emma Hagestadt The Independent)
"A compelling, atmospheric and well-crafted story" ( Guardian)
"An elegant homage to the Victorian ghost story tradition... Makes your flesh creep" ( The Times)
"Irresistible... Structured like a haunted mansion" ( Observer)
"Harwood is enviable skilled, handling pacing, delivery and plot with assurance and sly humour... The Ghost Writer has powerful moments and...a delicacy and tenderness that make it wonderfully readable" ( Times Literary Supplement)
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0151010749
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Harwood's tantalizing tale of suspense and family secrets weaves Victorian ghost stories into the present where they start to come true. This astonishing, assured debut shows just how dangerous family skeletons--and stories--can be. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0151010749
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0151010749
Book Description Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., 2004. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First American Edition, First Printing. ! New, no remainder marks, no shelf wear, no surprises. !. Bookseller Inventory # Ex343
Book Description Harcourt, Orlando, 2004. Softcover. Book Condition: New. Uncorrected Proof. 369 pages. Softcover. Brand new, uncorrected proof copy. FICTION. Timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago. Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. And as he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he realizes that they might hold the key to finding Alice and unveiling his family's mystery-or will they bring him the untimely death they seem to foretell? John Harwood's astonishing debut shows us just how dangerous family skeletons-and stories-can be. (Key Words: Fiction, suspense, mystery, stories, John Harwood). book. Bookseller Inventory # 15140X1
Book Description Harcourt, Brace and Company, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First U. S. Edition. Dust jacket has not been price clipped and is protected in mylar. Bookseller Inventory # 000443
Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110151010749