Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry

With at least two or three books hitting my desk every day for review, why are there no ghost stories coming my way? We all are aware of the resounding success of ghost/ horror genre both in film and in books, The Woman in Black being the most recent fascination.

In seven months months of working for Female First, I have yet to have to review a ghost story. In recent years we have seen the likes of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver and The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies, but nothing this year has graced our shelves with its ghostly presence.

When looking back to horror/ ghost routes we were once in abundance with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and his tales of unease and Henry James with the Turn of the Screw but now the market is saturated with compilations of ghost stories from specific areas of the country, but not a standalone novel. Does this mean that ghost stories are so sporadic that they are better fitted for a short story rather than a novel? Ghosts are often characterised by something slight out of someone’s peripheral vision or a momentary noise, or a sighting that disappeared before someone had time to see what it was. It is not often in stories that ghosts are perpetual to the same person. It is usually several different accounts of the same ghost but by different people. Does this mean we are destined to always be short of a good ghost novel? There is certainly a gap in the market for this genre at the moment.

We all know the impact a good ghost story can have; it can take the world by storm, whether it is in film or in a book. The ghost in Three Men and a Baby for instance kicked up a big fuss post filming, as no one had realised it was there in the final edits.

We saw the success of films such as the Awakening, Stir of Echoes and the popular TV show Marchlands, which proves the genre has substance. Perversely, we all have a ghost story to tell. How many times have you asked someone if they have any spooky stories? Traditionally,around a camp fire, at Halloween or when its thunder and lightening outside or even around a dinner table with friends? There is a ghost novel in every one of us and it’s about time we unleashed every one!

I believe in the afterlife despite never seeing anything ghostly, which is a contradiction in its own right. People may tell their story with fabrications and embellishments, but there is still rawness there to what they may or may not have seen. Even if stories are made up, we care captivated by the notion of something beyond our plane of existence. Something with which we have no control over its timing or its force.  We are filled with hope that there is something beyond here and that we may see our loved ones again after we have passed.

Ghost stories are far more effective than the slasher horror we are exposed to now as they make the reader think, use their imagination and to manifest the entity that has been written. There is certain claustrophobia while reading one, as, it is generally at night, in bed, while it’s quiet, your partner is asleep next to you or worse you are on your own. No one can erase the feelings that have been created from reading it; no one can see what is being conjured up in your mind. It is a gentle form of insanity that ensues as you read whereby you feel everything that the main protagonist is feeling.

The need to stop reading is at the forefront of your mind, but the skilful writers keep you hooked until the end. You are left in the dark, if you can bare sleeping with the light off, staring around your room for shadows that should not be there, or shapes shifting from your  manipulated mind. You worry about what is behind the bedroom door or behind the shower curtain when you get up the next day from a restless night of apparitions and imaginings. You are grateful for work as when you get back you have to go through the same cycle again when you get home.

That is the making of a good haunt, so please, if you’re out there with a novel on your desk that presses any of those buttons send it my way and I will be happy to give it the once over!  

 Female First Lucy Walton

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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