Ghostland by Edward Parnell

4 out of 5 stars

Losing one family member early to cancer is a tragedy. But losing both parents and a brother to the disease is several levels above that. It is at times like this that looking back over your past for things that were comforting can help. For Edward Parnell, this meant heading back to his bookshelves to look for the stories that he was obsessed with as a boy. This was ghost stories from a raft of favourite authors and the other weird fiction that was generally found nudging up against these books in the library.

To relive some of those stories he wanted to get under the skin of his favourite authors, Susan Cooper and Alan Garner, M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood to name a few in the book. That means travelling to the places that the authors placed their stories in. Whilst these places are not specifically haunted, he is not looking for ghosts per se, but seeking the places that have a creepy element about them. Whilst there here he is trying to find just why the authors rooted their stories there.

It is a book that defies categorisation really. It is part memoir, part family saga, part travel book and all centred around the books that he is remising about. I have only heard of a couple of the authors that he mentions and must admit to reading very few of them. Yet after reading this I now have a list of authors whose works I want to try at some point. I hadn’t been to many of the places that he writes about, so it was interesting learning about the context of them with regards to the books. However, I do know two of them really well, as they are close to where I live in Dorset. Badbury Rings is an Iron Age Hill Fort, and I have been on and around it at night and it doesn’t feel that creepy. Knowlton though can be really quite sinister at night…

This is a timely book too, I think that he has tapped into the growing interest in folk horror, that zines like Weird walk and Hellebore are publishing for, and there is that amazing Hookland too if you have the faintest interest the otherworldliness of the British Countryside. Most of all it is touching eulogy to his beloved family members and a fitting memory for them.

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  1. Annabel Gaskell

    One of these days I’ll go to Alderley Edge to experience Alan Garner country (and visit Jodrell Bank). This book sounds really good – I will put it on my library wishlist.

    • Paul

      Even though it wasn’t what I wasn’t expecting, I liked it

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