Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The White Devil - book review - ghosts and Byron, an unbeatable mix

The White Devil by Justin Evans has been around for a little over a year.   It was reviewed by S. Krishna (here),  reviewed last year over at The Huffington Post,  and by Daphne at Where There is Joy (here),   and they all think the same way I do about this book:  it's a darn good ghost story.

Andrew Taylor arrives at an English boarding school, Harrow, from America.  It's his last year of school, he's 17, and he was thrown out of several prestigious schools in the US for his attitude, and finally drugs.  He doesn't do them regularly, this is not a ghost story about that.  It does set the scene for a fairly troubled young man, as he attempts to find his bearings in England, where he has never been before.  It features Byron too, in a fairly big way, which makes this a literary ghost story, and I loved this part.  Byron! Poetry!  his early life, especially, as in this story, Byron went to Harrow over 150 years ago. 

One of the fun things about this book is that Evans doesn't wait - the ghost puts in an appearance almost right away. What's also fun is that many of the adults involved don't scoff or dismiss Justin - because they can feel something too.  Creepy, yes? Very.  And also very well done - all the characters are believable, interesting, and while it's set in a boarding school, with all the enclosed environment that breeds, the action moves quickly.  A surprising death comes almost at once, and Andrew sees something over the body.  He is marked though he doesn't know it.  It's a chilling story, very effective, scary, and with a ghost that will make you very very glad you are on this side of the ocean.

I could not put this down, and devoured it as fast as I could. I had to know what happened at the end. I found myself thinking about this book through the day, going over it, feeling sad that something Andrew does, he won't get credit for.  That's how real this story is.  Gripping, too, fast-paced, and funny at times also.  I really enjoyed this.  If you are looking for a final ghost story to read for RIP, I  recommend this one highly. 

This was read for Carl's challenge RIP,   

Some thoughts on ghost stories
It did get me to thinking about ghost stories, and the underlying sense of unease that we have with ghosts.  So many ghost stories end badly for the main character, and it's almost as if a character is marked when he or she sees the ghost.  Their life will never be the same. Think of the governess in Turn of the Screw, driven made by the two children.  Think of Eleanor of The Haunting of Hill House, and how she goes to escape her mean life, and discovers that she can never leave.  Ghosts mark you, almost like how in the Irish folk tale that if you hear the banshee, you are going to die.  Implacable, unchangeable, somehow ghosts and the ghostly touch and change whoever comes into contact with them. Creepy, eerie, scary, chilling, and we come back for more. I think there is a small measure of, thank heaven that's not us.  How about Danny is The Shining?  I so would not EVER want to spend a night alone in the Overlook Hotel, never mind a whole winter!!!! 

How about you, do you love ghost stories?  Have you found any good ghost stories during this RIP challenge?


Kerry said...

Great review. I'm not a ghost story person so I'll give it a miss, but I enjoyed reading what you thought of it.

Cath said...

I've always wished that I knew more about the romantic poets. We did Wordsworth and Coleridge at school but Byron and Shelley passed me by completely and one day I'd like to put that right. I dislike the fact that I know nothing about such important poets.

But this book sounds fantastic so will investigate later and see if it might be for me.

I seem to have specialised more on horror this RIP - Charlie Parker - although those do have ghosts as well. The best ghost story I've read has been Dark Matter, and I also loved the short stories I read. Hoping to read a couple more this weekend before the end of RIP.

I'm now trying to decide on my last RIP read. Possibly The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett or Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I've just finished London Under by Peter Ackroyd and the hidden rivers appeal to me, though I gather the book is not really about those.

It sounds like you've had a fantastic RIP, Susan!

Kathleen said...

This one sounds like a must read!

Susan said...

Kerry: Thank you! It was a good book, I'm still thinking about it a few days after finishing it. Do you not like ghost stories? I know some people who don't. I always have!

Cath: Well, you don't get any lessons in this book! lol but you do learn a little about Byron, and especially about his life with women. I enjoyed the poetry we did get. There's a play, too :-) did I mention? I hope you do find it and enjoy it, Cath! yaaay :-)

I know you've been reading lots of Charlie Parker this RIP - almost the whole series is read by you now, isn't it?

Dark Matter was such a good ghost story.

Rivers of London! read Rivers of London! lol I have to pick up Moon Over Soho to continue the series. No, Rivers of London not really about underground rivers, though rivers do feature in it! lol I want to read the London Underground....one day, when I finish reading London, by him, which we own.

You sound like you've had a really good RIP too, Cath! Both of us have had fun with this one :-)

Kathleen: I hope you like it! It is a good read. Glad I could tempt you too!

Cath said...

I still have a ways to go with the Charlie Parker books, Susan. I just started books 7 as it's due back at the library soon, and there are 11 so far. Pleased that I still have a few to go.

Rivers of London will be one of my November reads. I've definitely decided on that. Both you and my daughter loved it so I think I will too.

Yes, I've had huge fun with RIP this year, can't believe it's nearly over!

Daphne said...

I loved it too! And ghost stories are my favorite. Glad you liked it too!

Belle Wong said...

I'll have to add this one to my TBR pile - it sounds very spooky and it has been quite a while since I've read a good ghost story.

Anne Simonot said...

Have you read Justin Evans' first book? I enjoyed The White Devil but A Good and Happy Child is seriously creepy. Unsettling. Disturbing. I highly recommend it for a RIP read.

Susan said...

Cath: I thought I had answered you here last week! I feel so badly, I have been checking in, I just havent' had time to do a post yet. As to your comments: 11 books in the Charlie Parker series! better see if I like the first one....

Did you read Rivers of London yet? I almost picked up the second one, I think i am ready to read it. Then I picked up a Persephone book, The Priory, and am surprising myself by enjoying it very much!

I haven't even done my RIP wrap-up post yet....

Daphne: It was your review that convinced me to try to find it! I'm glad I did. Thanks so much :-) I love that so many of us like the same kind of ghost stories.

Belle: I hope you do read it one day! It is spooky in places, and very unsettling. A sense of real malevolence too in the book, which isn't always successfully done, but it is in this one.

Anne: No, I haven't read it yet, but now you've got me thinking that I will check the library tomorrow for it! thanks so much. I hadn't heard anything about his first book.

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