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Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country av…
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Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country (utgåvan 2019)

av Edward Parnell

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
994215,524 (3.92)6
Medlem:CaroleMcDonnell
Titel:Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country
Författare:Edward Parnell
Info:William Collins, Kindle Edition, 468 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:to-read

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Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country av Edward Parnell

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Visar 4 av 4
Always the ghosts.

At one point in his Ghostland, Edward Parnell quotes a character from a Walter de la Mare ghost story “Seaton’s Aunt”:

Why, after all, how much do we really understand of anything? We don’t even know our own histories, and not a tenth, not a tenth of the reasons.

Ghostland is unclassifiable, a book of many parts. But it is, first and foremost, a book about histories. And like Seaton, Parnell starts with his own history, digging deep into his memory (and in family photo albums) to piece together the story of growing up with his parents and his brother Chris. There are happy snaps of early family holidays and bird-hunting trips. But, as Edward grows older (and as his story/history progresses) he has to face more harrowing memories of the illness, suffering and death which visit his closest and dearest. One cannot but suspect that Parnell had suppressed many of these bleaker memories and that writing Ghostland was a way in which the ghost of these past images could be summoned and their pain exorcised.

Perhaps it is the very intimacy of this exercise which leads the author to adopt his unusual approach to memoir. Ghostland could easily have became a straightforward autobiography or one of those “true life books” for which there is always a hungry market. Instead, Parnell opts to keep his own history at arm’s length and to use as “interlocutor” with his memories the ghost stories, weird tales and horror movies which he loved so much as a boy and which are still his passion (Parnell himself his written a critically acclaimed ghost novel).

Parnell realizes that these works of fiction are very much shaped by their authors’ own histories and by the landscapes where they were written and set. He sets of on a pilgrimage of the British Isles whose stops are the places which inspired the great writers of ghostly fiction. Readers who share Parnell’s enthusiasm for the genre will find much to enjoy in this regard. M.R. James, Arthur Machen, L.P.Hartley, Charles Dickens, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Aickman, Alan Garner … these are some of the authors whose works (and lives) are discussed in the book. But Parnell’s omnivorous love of the ghostly goes beyond the written word – he also ventures into film and tv, in sections about the folk-horror movies, the cult BBC adaptations of ghost stories at Christmas and even dark public information films from the 1970’s such as “Apaches” and “Lonely Water”.

Ghostland is subtitled “In Search of a Haunted Country” and it often has the feel of a travelogue. Indeed, Parnell exploration of the ghostly and weird is anything but “desk-based”. Whilst the biographical and bibliographical details are well-researched, what gives this book its idiosyncratic feel is the “sense of place” which gives a context to the works discussed. I particularly liked, for instance, the description of Parnell’s impromptu visit to the house in Borth, Wales where William Hope Hodgson penned The House on the Borderland, and his account of revisiting the Norfolk Fens which inspired W.G. Sebald’s autofiction and which Parnell remembers as childhood haunts.

Because, as the author himself admits, it is always the ghosts… These journeys into the uncanny inevitably and repeatedly lead back to the ghosts of Parnell’s past. Invariably, the stations on this idiosyncratic pilgrimage spark personal memories. And as the book nears its end, Parnell must face the terrors of the illness and death of his loved ones. The book is poignant throughout but, in its last chapters, it is emotionally devastating. I cannot start to imagine what challenge it must have been for the author to write the final pages. As readers, we cannot but feel honoured to be allowed to share his most intimate feelings.

For an illustrated version of this review, visit https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2019/11/ghostland-Edward-Parnell.html ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
Always the ghosts.

At one point in his Ghostland, Edward Parnell quotes a character from a Walter de la Mare ghost story “Seaton’s Aunt”:

Why, after all, how much do we really understand of anything? We don’t even know our own histories, and not a tenth, not a tenth of the reasons.

Ghostland is unclassifiable, a book of many parts. But it is, first and foremost, a book about histories. And like Seaton, Parnell starts with his own history, digging deep into his memory (and in family photo albums) to piece together the story of growing up with his parents and his brother Chris. There are happy snaps of early family holidays and bird-hunting trips. But, as Edward grows older (and as his story/history progresses) he has to face more harrowing memories of the illness, suffering and death which visit his closest and dearest. One cannot but suspect that Parnell had suppressed many of these bleaker memories and that writing Ghostland was a way in which the ghost of these past images could be summoned and their pain exorcised.

Perhaps it is the very intimacy of this exercise which leads the author to adopt his unusual approach to memoir. Ghostland could easily have became a straightforward autobiography or one of those “true life books” for which there is always a hungry market. Instead, Parnell opts to keep his own history at arm’s length and to use as “interlocutor” with his memories the ghost stories, weird tales and horror movies which he loved so much as a boy and which are still his passion (Parnell himself his written a critically acclaimed ghost novel).

Parnell realizes that these works of fiction are very much shaped by their authors’ own histories and by the landscapes where they were written and set. He sets of on a pilgrimage of the British Isles whose stops are the places which inspired the great writers of ghostly fiction. Readers who share Parnell’s enthusiasm for the genre will find much to enjoy in this regard. M.R. James, Arthur Machen, L.P.Hartley, Charles Dickens, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Aickman, Alan Garner … these are some of the authors whose works (and lives) are discussed in the book. But Parnell’s omnivorous love of the ghostly goes beyond the written word – he also ventures into film and tv, in sections about the folk-horror movies, the cult BBC adaptations of ghost stories at Christmas and even dark public information films from the 1970’s such as “Apaches” and “Lonely Water”.

Ghostland is subtitled “In Search of a Haunted Country” and it often has the feel of a travelogue. Indeed, Parnell exploration of the ghostly and weird is anything but “desk-based”. Whilst the biographical and bibliographical details are well-researched, what gives this book its idiosyncratic feel is the “sense of place” which gives a context to the works discussed. I particularly liked, for instance, the description of Parnell’s impromptu visit to the house in Borth, Wales where William Hope Hodgson penned The House on the Borderland, and his account of revisiting the Norfolk Fens which inspired W.G. Sebald’s autofiction and which Parnell remembers as childhood haunts.

Because, as the author himself admits, it is always the ghosts… These journeys into the uncanny inevitably and repeatedly lead back to the ghosts of Parnell’s past. Invariably, the stations on this idiosyncratic pilgrimage spark personal memories. And as the book nears its end, Parnell must face the terrors of the illness and death of his loved ones. The book is poignant throughout but, in its last chapters, it is emotionally devastating. I cannot start to imagine what challenge it must have been for the author to write the final pages. As readers, we cannot but feel honoured to be allowed to share his most intimate feelings.

For an illustrated version of this review, visit https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2019/11/ghostland-Edward-Parnell.html ( )
2 rösta JosephCamilleri | Sep 12, 2020 |
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. ( )
1 rösta PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I enjoyed Parnell's writing, his attention to landscapes, his elegies for deceased family (what a tragic story), but it's unclear just what this book was: memoir, UK walking tour, survey of British authors of "the Weird," etc. It meandered and despite the goodwill I feel toward Parnell, ultimately I was whelmed. ( )
1 rösta LancasterWays | Feb 13, 2020 |
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