Monday, January 19, 2009

Ghost on the beach

We went to the Oregon Coast this weekend. The coast in January is normally dark and rainy with some chilling wind for good measure. Instead it was sixty degrees and we spent hours on the beach. Bizarre. While the weather was more than we could have expected, a little of the old dark and dreary would have suited one of the books I read. Susan Hill writes ghost tales in the 19th century mold. Her Man in the Picture features dark alleys, ancient academic bachelor libraries, curses and English country homes. The focus of the story is a painting which brings horror to those that possess it.

The book reads like an MR James story with a mix-in of the 70s trippy horror movie Don't Look Now. It feels like it could have been written by James, but it has a peculiar and mysterious ending that feels more modern. The ending itself is a question mark. It was possible that one of the narrators was lying or that the curse itself had changed by the end. Or maybe the evil was much darker than I understood. The book is short at 150 pages and will be popular with those who long for an old school ghost tale.


Anonymous said...

Weird that we must be reading the same books lately. I just read this one last night--it definitely got points for the atmospheric but, I don't know, it left me wanting a little something more. At 150 quick pages, though, I can't really complain. Was still a good dark read.

I was a little bit confused with the constant first-person though--did you have any problem keeping the narrators straight?

Tripp said...


Yes I can see that reaction. She may have overdone the lack of answers.

The narrator shift wasn't too bad, although I did have to stop and wonder who was talking about which item. I was a bit confused as to whether the Countess was actually the woman in the picture. I was confused to that.