Friday, September 09, 2016

A Head Full Of Ghosts - Paul Tremblay

Book Details

Book Title: A Head Full Of Ghosts

Author: Paul Tremblay

: Titan Books

Source: Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Page Count: 355

Format: Paperback

Genre: Psychological Horror

ISBN/Link To Book On Amazon: 978-1785653674

Influences: Stephen King, The Exorcist, Found Footage Documentaries.

Audience: Those who enjoy twisted, sinister and scary horror stories :D

Rating: 9/10

Summed up in one word: Ominous 

Author Bio: Paul Tremblay is an American Horror/Fantasy and Science Fiction author/editor. PT has released 10 novels and over 20 short stories as well as multiple anthologies in his career. A movie studio has reportedly already bought the rights to A Head Full of Ghosts. He is a Bram Stoker Award-winning author and has served as the president of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards.

First Impression: Though I enjoy the horror genre, I do not really get many opportunities to read any due to a high demand for fantasy and science-fiction. I was chuffed when I received this from Titan Books, my first actual horror review. A Head Full Of Ghost is not a gruesome or bloody horror piece (there is blood in it though!), it is a potent mix of psychological and religious horror with some great influences to keep it creepy and shocking. I read this book in 2 sittings and by the end my jaw had hit the floor and I had a
tear in my eye. This book was released in 2015 but is being re-released as a paperback on 27/09/16. Read this review, check out the book and support this author!

Summary of the Story:
The lives of the Barretts, a suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to halt Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors. they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls the terrifying events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories begin to surface, and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed.  

(Synopsis from A Head Full Of Ghosts - Paul Tremblay) 


Plot: Following the Barrett family as they go through the experience of having a possibly schizophrenic/possibly possessed daughter is a mixed experience. I have not read any other books by Paul Tremblay, so I am unsure of his overall style. What we get in AHFOG is a progressively traumatic journey that consumes a family who are just trying to get answers and help their daughter. Events are shared through the eyes of an eight year version of Meredith Barrett, a perspective that adds a whole new dimension to the horror genre as we have to dissect what is happening through a wall of innocence and it works so well. 

The older version of Merry is approached by an author who wants to write a book on the events that surround Marjorie Barrett. Merry agrees and in the process of telling her story, Merry slowly unlocks repressed memories and suppressed experiences that happened all those years ago and she comes to some devastating conclusions that her eight year old self could not process properly. Throughout the course of the book, Marjorie evolves into something evil and continuously tricks and manipulates Merry into doing her bidding. Not knowing the entire truth and wanting to please her once beloved big sister, Merry goes along with it as her parents have all but given up emotionally and fail to support her through these events.

Gaining public attention through the church, the family agree to participate in a reality TV show (for the money as they are flat broke), this brings nothing but trouble to this already suffering family. The Possession brings the family into the lime-light and highly influences the events that happen within the house hold. The number one burning question that consumes everyone is "Is she really possessed, or faking it?"

Format/Writing Style: The choice to tell this story through the innocent eyes of eight year old Merry was pure genius. The bonus to this equation was that because it is actually a 23 year old Merry reiterating what she was experiencing as a young girl, some of the facts and experiences are warped and confused, which brings more distress to the writing. Having added a blog post portion to begin each act was strange and sort of mocked the actual retelling of this story, I suppose that was added to give an outsiders view to the goings on inside the Barrett house, a sceptic's view to teach the reader not to believe everything they are told. There are plenty of revelations in this book and they are all handled very well by PT and his solid writing, having to maintain a eight year old's perspective on the horrors of her family and have the childish nature of Merry flowing a the same time has been done superbly.

Setting: The whole book is set within the walls of the Barrett House. The rooms of this house become characters and emotions in themselves with the living room being a place of family love, the kitchen being a room of stress and sadness, the sun room being a warped, ugly place that does not make sense, Marjorie's room being a place of horror and distortion and Merry's room being the setting of childish hope and wonder.

Characters: Marjorie truly is an enigma, even after the book is finished, I was left feeling confused at what was really going on with her, slowly dissolving into a manic, disgusting and evil being over the course of events. Merry is left to keep everyone united, Mom has an emotional breakdown and dad becomes a religious fanatic, so Merry is left to run about a house full of people who just don't know how to function anymore. Merry is cute, sweet, interesting, pushy and full of energy. She just wants her sister, mom and dad back to they way they were and is prepared to do anything to make that happen.

Themes: Family dysfunction is the main theme here, all the members of the Barrett family slowly receding into themselves and their problems. Another potent theme is manipulation, Merry is twisted and turned in every page and her little mind cannot keep up. We are left to pick up the pieces of her experiences and put them together. This book is 33% horror, 33% sadness and 34% hope and determination.

Likes: Atmosphere. Horror. Great Characters. Decent timeline of events. Ending that makes you want to go back in and check again :D

Dislikes: Takes time to warm up. Sadness and dysfunction. Confusing blog that changes the whole tone of the book.

Cover Art: Simple but effective, better than the hardback edition! 8/10

Overall: I believe this is a great addition to the horror genre. I was horrified, scared, hopeful and impressed by this piece and you won't regret checking it out. If you like a psychological horror with a twist then definitely give this your undivided attention. Paul Tremblay is a talented author and I look forward to reading his other material. 9/10

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