25 October 2009

Review: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

One of my favourite websites, The AV Club has a monthly book club (link leads directly there), which I've never quite managed to participate in because either the book hasn't arrived on time, I haven't been interested in the book, or I haven't finished reading the book by the discussion dates. (In that last case was the lovely Little, Big by John Crowley. I never did write about that book because as much as I liked it, I equally didn't like it, and didn't know how to articulate the way I felt about it.) I did manage to read Ghost Story by Peter Straub not just in time, but a week early because I had the discussion dates confused.

I'd probably never have picked this book up – it's a ghost story and I do avoid most thriller/crime/mystery novels, except for young adult books – if not for the book club. And I can't decide if I'm glad to have read it or just indifferent. The general gist of the story is that four men, who are creeping up close to retirement age, are haunted by an occurrence from their past, metaphorically speaking, but increasingly it seems also to be a literal haunting with consequences reaching far beyond their own lives.

Opening paragraph:
What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?
I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me… the most dreadful thing…

I found this a pretty entertaining book. I don't usually get scared by fiction (if you want to scare me, give me a book about true crime, something to do with creepy cults who kill their members or other people and that'll freak me out more) and wasn't scared by this, but I could see how it might have worked for other people, the buildup from unease to knowing something is happening to being in the midst of a city-wide haunting.