Author: Ransom Riggs
Finished on: 12 April 2015
Where did I get this book: Scarthin Books, Cromford, bought for my friend’s birthday (because I really fancied it but thought it looked a bit scary, so wanted her to read it first and then tell me whether I would be able to cope with it!)
This was bought for a very good friend. The kind of friend that doesn’t mind when you say – I bought this for you because I want to read it but I think it might be too scary for me.
I am the most easily frightened person I know. And by frightened, I mean can’t go for a wee in the night by myself frightened (when my husband fancies an evening watching a horror film together, he has to weigh up whether he’s up for being woken in the middle of the night to come with me to the bathroom). But I love scary books and films. I used to fully indulge this love of terrifying myself witless. But since becoming grown up and mature, I have realised that it’s just not worth it. Most of the time.
Anyway, she’s a good friend. And she said I would be able to handle it. “More spooky that scary,” she said.
And it is spooky, which was good really because except for the odd tingle of spookiness and “Ooo am I alright going to the loo alone?” this book didn’t really do much for me at all. (The answer is yes I could, as long as I turned ALL the lights on first).
This book has an unusual ‘concept’ – a novel, but accompanied by ‘found photographs’. Authentic old snapshots that have something uncanny about them. The author found the photographs from a variety of sources, and used them as inspiration for his story. Some of the pictures are genuinely eerie, and I enjoyed looking at them, but they don’t half feel shoehorned into this story.
In order to create an effective novel, he would’ve been better using the few pictures that actually complement his core plot, and leaving the rest out.
I find because of the constant shoehorning in of photos, Riggs doesn’t carry you along with this story – basically, I didn’t suspend my disbelief (and my disbelief is spectacularly easily suspended, I have just been crying watching H2O, my daughter’s favourite cheesy Australian programme about girls that turn into mermaids).
I didn’t relax into it at any point. You don’t get that immersion and trust in the author: the glorious feeling I remember most vividly on getting to Chapter Nine of The Count Of Monte Cristo, a feeling of this is just wonderful, I will follow this story anywhere and I want to read this book forever. It didn’t feel real to me; Riggs doesn’t succeed in authentically conjuring up this fantasy world.
A lot of the story is set in Wales – the protagonist travels from the US to Wales to investigate his grandfather’s past. I don’t know if Riggs visited Wales whilst researching the book, but it certainly reads like he didn’t. He falls back on lazy stereotypes of Three Men And A Little Lady proportions* whilst describing our backward UK ways, which grated a little I must admit.
So overall, moderately spooky (and let’s face it, if I can handle it, nearly everyone else will find it a walk in the park) but other than that disappointing.
So I’m sorry to Lisa for buying you a substandard birthday present.
*I would just like to point out that Three Men And A Little Lady is of course amazing, and I entirely forgive it these stereotypes in their case.