Childgrave

February 21, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

graveChildgrave by Ken Greenhall

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I devoured the other two Greenhall books I read earlier this year. Elizabeth was eerily reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House, and Hell Hound was a fascinating look at sociopathy, so I was eager to read Childgrave, even before Valancourt Books reprinted it. Once the reprint became available, I bought it and started reading.

The story is about Jonathan, a photographer who becomes infatuated with Sara, a harpist, and invites her into his life. Once she befriends him and his daughter, he begins to see apparitions in the photos he takes of his daughter. Later, he learns that the apparitions are connected to Sara, but instead of driving him away, it only serves to draw him closer to her.

The story manages to be eerie without being creepy, so long as you overlook Jonathan’s harassment of Sara through most of the book. He’s convinced he’s in love with her, and goes out of his way to be with her, which is in and of itself pretty creepy. It’s hard to tell if Greenhall intended this to be unsettling (the book was originally published in 1981, when this sort of behavior wasn’t yet considered harassment), but looking at it from a modern eye, it certainly is.

Jonathan also serves as our narrator, and his obsession with Sara suggests he might not be a reliable narrator. At one point, he declares himself as “being an emotionally mature individual”, while confessing love to a woman he doesn’t even know, which made me question some of the events in the book. The thing is, he doesn’t come across as unreliable; instead, he just comes across as a narrator I can’t trust. I don’t think he’s lying to me about what’s happening around him, but I can’t believe everything he tells me, either.

The book is unusual in that it’s essentially two stories in one, neatly divided down the middle of the book. Interestingly, the second story is the one that reveals the significance of the title, so we spend a lot of the book wondering what, exactly, Childgrave is. It’s a long build-up, but it is necessary, even if it gives the book a disjointed feel. Again, I wonder if this was intentional on Greenhall’s part.

Childgrave reminds me of Charles Grant’s quiet horror, in that it has a slow build-up without much violence or gore. It doesn’t quite reach the standard Grant created with his Oxrun Station books, but it’s reminiscent enough to belong to the same class. Fans of that style of horror would do themselves a favor to read Childgrave, and then move on to Elizabeth and Hell Hound.

Started: December 1, 2017
Finished: December 12, 2017

2 Comments

  1. nawfalaq said,

    I don’t have the ability to read horror novels. However, I always read your reviews of the genre, because it seems you manage to find the interesting (??) or uncommon ones!.

    • Isaac said,

      For this one, all credit goes to Valancourt Books. They’ve found some great hidden gems to reprint! Thank you for the kind words!

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