Posted in Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight Halloween Special. Stephen King.

I couldn’t have introduced my Sunday Spotlight feature in the month of October, without spotlighting the King of Horror himself, Stephen King. I’ve been reading King since my teenage years and I was horrified to learn that my first was at least 22 years ago.

I first encountered Stephen King when I borrowed my mum’s copy of Salem’s Lot, but when I started to look back I was shocked to see how many copies of his books I’d ‘acquired’ from other people. I remember when I was 18 begging, borrowing or ‘acquiring’ most of his back catalogue and I’ve bought most of his novels since. This month though, I was very happy to receive my first ever hardback copy of a King book on publication day. I haven’t read Billy Summers yet, but I know it will always be special because I bought it brand new. I have many well-loved and well-thumbed copies of his back catalogue, because I’ve read most of them more than once, so I picked out the ones where I can talk about my relationship with the book.

Well this is quite a colourful story. I’d read a bit of Stephen King before Misery arrived, and I was 17 when it did. Every summer, my friend would take me up to the Yorkshire Dales when she spent some of the summer holidays with her Dad. He always lived in quite remote villages, but this particular summer he was living in a small village called East Witton. It was a long village green with a row of cottages lined up on either side, facing each other. There was a tiny shop and at the bottom of the village a large pub with rooms. One night my friend and I went to the pub for a couple of drinks. My friend hit it off with the barman straight away and after a few freebie drinks, he introduced me to his friend who worked in the kitchens. I can’t for the life of me remember his name, which is awful, but he was a really quiet, sensitive guy, who read a lot so we had plenty to talk about. For some unknown reason we went to fetch our waterproofs and a torch and climbed a hill?! The view as the sun started to come up was beautiful. On the way back down we talked Stephen King and his favourite King novel was Misery. I hadn’t read it. So he was kind enough to lend me his copy and gave me his address to keep in touch (and return his book no doubt). I still have it. Misery is an incredible book, because of the tension and fear it creates in the reader, but also because it was weirdly prescient. In the novel Paul Sheldon is driving through ice and snow to post off his manuscript – the final book in the Misery Chastain series. He’s elated, because despite Misery’s popularity and the financial security she represents, he had started to hate her. Unfortunately for Paul, his manuscript will not end up in the hands of his editor. The terrible ice proves treacherous and Paul remembers nothing about the accident, but when he wakes he’s about to meet his number one fan, Annie Wilkes. The positive thing is that Annie is a nurse, capable of looking after his shattered bones and dosing the pain with some very potent painkillers. The negative is that Annie’s not a fan of all Paul’s writing, she’s the number one fan of the Misery Chastain series and now his provocative manuscript is in the hands of the person who might take Misery’s end badly. He has no idea just how badly. The tension is unbearable, the horror is visceral and the book is impossible to put down.

I found this old film tie-in copy of The Shining in a second hand bookshop and I had to be very brave to get it. This particular bookshop is a unit of our local Antiques and Collectibles Centre and the owner is always in residence, reading in a huge Windsor chair by the till. I didn’t know this the first time I went in and was stuck for forty minutes listening to him promoting the genius of L.Ron Hubbard. Forever afterwards known as ‘Fat Scientology Guy’ I used to try and avoid his eye and only browse around the back shelves, but he seemed to have eyes everywhere. Now I never shop there, but I do have this odd yellow copy of The Shining to remind me of my escape from Scientology. This is one of the most terrifying books I have ever read. It’s the combination of the supernatural horror like the creepy twins and whatever lurks in one of the rooms, and the horror of the person you love most becoming a monster. King brilliantly depicts a man on the edge in Jack Torrance and I love the little clues that show us his breakdown is looming. He starts to chew dry painkillers, his drinking increases, and once they reach The Overlook he starts to have hallucinations, or converses with ghosts depending on your perspective. Then there are the signs, like the wasps nest -a fascinating labyrinth of chambers and pathways, but with a nasty sting in its tail when Danny finds it’s still got the odd resident. I felt so sad for this little boy with his ‘shining’, it’s hard enough to have good perception and empathy in the moment, without seeing into the future. This book really did affect my sleep and made me feel a bit jumpy. I must have been 15 when I read it for the first time and at that point you’re breaking away from your parents a bit more. We start to see them differently, as people with their own personalities and faults. They’re like everyone else with the ability to make mistakes. Jack is a heightened version of that realisation, the family man who becomes killer. Aside from the supernatural elements, the fear is that anyone could boil over and become a monster.

This is one of those huge bricks of a book that can be a daunting prospect and I definitely felt that for several years. My mum’s friend, who’s like an honorary godmother to me, knew I read King’s novels and recommended this as her favourite. It was one of those books that sat on the shelves for years, and I tried to read it several times before giving up. How interesting could it be, to read about people catching a cold? I’m aware of the irony. I finally picked this up three years ago and for some reason it just clicked with me. I now think it’s one of his best, not just because he captures perfectly the terror of a pandemic, but because of the strange supernatural elements behind the disaster. A bio-engineered virus escapes from a lab and spreads across the world with fierce speed. It acts like a ‘souped-up’ flu and most of humanity succumbs to it, except for a mysterious few who seem immune. However, they get something else, a legacy of nightmares. Their dreams focus around a strange old woman named Mother Abigail, who beckons them to follow her. Worse though are the nightmares of a figure called Randall Flagg also known as the Dark Man. Survivors start to amass around these two strange people: Flagg is in Las Vegas (of course) and his survivors pledge to annihilate anyone who doesn’t follow him, whilst Mother Abigail is in Boulder, Colorado, advocating the old ways and telling followers they’re chosen by God. I was fascinated with Flagg, who is a devilish figure and has seen the plague as an opportunity to cause more chaos and division. We even get God, but a scary Old Testament one who isn’t afraid of zapping his detractors. This is an epic novel, and feels almost Biblical in it’s theology and it’s incredible push and pull between good and evil.

Meet The Author.

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted into films, television series, miniseries, and comic books

The other seven books in my top ten would be It, On Writing, Insomnia, The Green Mile, Salem’s Lot, The Outsider and The Institute

Posted in Publisher Proof

A Ghost In The Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa.

“This is a female text, composed while folding someone else’s clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores.”

This novel is exceptional. It’s beautiful, moving and speaks about women’s experience in such a unique, but brutally honest way. The author has written an incredible piece of auto-fiction, which is half memoir and half novel but all poetry. While I can’t claim to be anything like the writer, I know this is the way I’m currently writing at the moment – as close to poetry as prose can get. I have always referred to it in my notes as a patchwork quilt of different images stitched together to make the whole. Our narrator is a mother of three small children and she has a fascination with the Irish poem ‘Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire’ where an Irish noblewoman laments the death of the her murdered husband. Such is her passionate grief, that on finding his body, she drinks handfuls of his blood and then composes this extraordinary poem. For our narrator, the poem has echoed down the centuries and is her constant companion. As she reads it aloud the poet’s voice comes to life. The author writes her own life to its rhythms and wants to discover the truth of the poem’s story.

Entitled a ‘dirge and a drudge song’ the author details that drudgery, the minutiae of her day and her boredom and satisfaction in the endless tasks she ticks off the list. Repeating ‘this is a female text’ creates a refrain throughout the list, emphasising not just the physical but the mental load. She comments on it gaining importance through the written page, an importance that’s usually reserved for male stories. Women’s skills and stories have previously lacked importance because they are passed down orally, from mother to daughter along with home making skills like recipes and patterns. I loved this context because it’s inspiring. It tells us that our stories are important too. Just because they’re domestic doesn’t mean they’re less than. They are simply a social history rather than a military or political one. This is shown in the fact that, despite the poem being described as ‘the greatest poem written in these islands in the whole of the eighteenth century’ the history of the poet herself is hard to uncover. In the family, a tragedy almost occurs, and in the aftermath the author’s interest in the poet grows. However, it’s a very broken and hidden trail to find her.

I loved how her recording of 21st Century motherhood is treated as an epic. I loved the sense of a collective consciousness running through the book. As if her words join hundreds and thousands of others in a never ending stream of female consciousness. This isn’t just about putting your experience into the world, it’s about having a source of female wisdom to draw from whenever you need it. The poem is part of that consciousness, but so are many other papers we don’t think about as historical documents. In my work I’ve used the care sheets that I kept every day for my late husband, because they show what I was doing and I loved connecting them to more lyrical documents like my journal. The author adds to these collective documents, with her ‘family calendar scrawled with biro and pencil marks, each in the same hand – this is a female text. Month after month after month of appointments, swim lessons, half-days, bake sales, fundraisers, library returns, a baby’s due-date, birthday parties, and school holidays. Tick. Tick. Tick.’ They are not accounts of battles or elections won, but there are a thousand small victories here. If we think about how we leave our mark on this world we should think about all the ways we record our lives on this earth, from our Spotify playlist, our status updates, our Instagram photos, our Pinterest boards. All of these are a form of journal, the quiet way we express who we are and what’s happening in our worlds. We write ourselves into the cross stitch we do, the crocheted blankets, and the patchwork quilt we made for a new baby. We stitch ourselves into the tapestry of life, and the author emphasises this, with words so descriptive I could picture her and the family she works so hard for. This is a female text and in it’s search for the meaning of women’s lives it is reassuring, it lets us know we’re not alone, but it also inspires us all to create meaning. To add our voice to the women’s wisdom, expanding that collective consciousness and making our mark.

Meet The Author.

DOIREANN NÍ GHRÍOFA is a bilingual writer whose books explore birth, death, desire, and domesticity. Doireann’s awards include a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Seamus Heaney Fellowship, the Ostana Prize and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. She is a member of Aosdána. A Ghost in the Throat is her prose debut.

Posted in Publisher Proof

The Rebel Suffragette: The Life of Edith Rigby by Beverley Adams.

When I was asked if I’d like to join the blog tour for a book about a suffragette I thought I pretty much knew what to expect. When I received my copy and I read the blurb on the inside cover I was really excited. First of all she was a Northerner like me and even better, she threw a black pudding at an MP. That’s about as Northern as it gets. Everything we’re taught about the movement focuses on the Pankhurst’s and the rallies based in London. What this author does is reframe the movement to the North West, where Edith Rigby founded the Preston branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. In doing this, the author reminds us that this was a nationwide movement, but also introduces us to a fascinating woman who was ahead of her time.

This is a well written and well researched autobiography about a fascinating woman who wouldn’t be told what her place was. Born to a lower middle class family in Preston, Lancashire, they lived in a dual purpose house which was part home and part doctor’s surgery where her father was doctor to the local mill working community. I enjoyed learning about how Edith grew up, because it was possibly this stable and happy environment that influenced her thirst for knowledge, individuality and equality. She saw how gender, and particularly class, affected children’s future circumstances and because she was so caring she went out of her way to help – even saving up her pennies to give gifts to local children on Christmas morning. While her actions within the Suffragette movement were fascinating reading, I really found the other aspects of her life interesting too. She was the first woman in her area to ride a bicycle and persisted in riding it, despite being heckled and pelted with vegetables, and even preached against by the local vicar. She liked the freedom her own transport gave her. Luckily, she found a man who enjoyed her vivacious and free spirit because she set out her stall from the wedding day. She was also adamant she was keeping her Christian name, so that instead of being named Dr and Mrs Charles Rigby they became Dr Charles and Mrs Edith Rigby. Having kept my own surname when married I felt a kinship with Edith and I also share her love of North Wales. Her determination to live by her principles was inspiring and it’s clearly this that informed her work with the school for young women that she founded. It also inspired the lengths she went to for the suffragette cause including arson, planning a bombing in Liverpool and going on hunger strike in prison. I applaud the author for bringing this incredibly strong woman to our attention and I recommend the book highly.

Posted in Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday! Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat.

I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head.

I was first introduced to Danticat’s writing by the tutor of my American Literature module at university. This was her debut novel and it sparked a fascination with Haiti, somewhere that always seemed tragic, but also strangely magical. This book took those childhood impressions and put flesh on their bones. It showed the human cost of such a chequered history, particularly for women and it’s characters have stayed with me for a long time. I think it’s also a wonderful depiction of generational trauma, emotional healing and counselling’s place in that difficult process.

We follow a young woman called Sophie Caco, who lives in Haiti as a child with her Tante Attie. Then at the age of twelve is relocated to New York to live with her mother, with whom she needs to forge a relationship. Sophie doesn’t want to go, but has no choice. Up till this point Tante Attie has been the only mother she knows. Her mother left Haiti long ago with the ghosts of the past at her heels. Sophie doesn’t know what life will be like when she gets there, but she is anxious about the journey, immigration and what it will be like going to school with children who speak a different language. Sophie will need to think on her feet and adapt to the new way of life quickly. What she finds though, is that it’s hard to escape Haiti. It does not let go of its daughters and her mother suffers mood swings and nightmares linked to her past there. Generational pain and trauma are played out in this relationship until Sophie realises they must face Haiti together -aunts, mothers and daughters – if they are ever to break the cycle .

I loved Danticat’s way of comparing these two very different places and their contrast with what’s going on deep inside these characters. Haiti is a place of deep sadness, particularly for Sophie’s mum. For those who don’t know it’s political and social history, Haiti covers half of the island it shares with the Dominican Republic. For many years both countries were colonised by the Spanish, but in 1697 after disputing territory the Western side of the island was ceded to the French. However, unlike the Dominican, Haiti was stripped of all it’s natural resources, even down to the island’s trees which were cut down for logging and to make way for planting sugar cane, leaving the island prone to landslides and unprotected against tropical storms. All this left a rather bare country, peopled by slaves, harvesting the cane that would ship to Britain as the final part of the ‘slave triangle’. During the French Revolution, the slaves revolted under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, and freed themselves. They were the first of the colonies to successfully liberate themselves and become a state on 1st January 1804. Whilst it was always politically turbulent, Haiti entered a reign of terror in 1956 under the autocratic government of Papa ‘Doc’ Duvalier and then his son until 1986; the period was characterized by state-sanctioned violence against the opposition and civilians, corruption, and economic stagnation. After 1986, Haiti began attempting to establish a more democratic political system. Yet the violence of the past thirty years left a legacy of pain in the people of Haiti, especially it’s women, for whom a history of sexual violence carried out by Papa Doc’s henchmen the ‘tonton macoutes’ had left them controlled and terrified.

Such a history leaves a legacy of rage and deep, deep sadness in the people. Yet Danticat depicts a vibrant culture filled colour, music, and incredible food. Tante Attie is an absolute rock of a woman. She’s a storyteller, passing down women’s stories and history to other woman. When we are without power, education and means we have to find other ways of recording our history – in the clothes we wear, the food we cook and the songs we sing. Attie is the keeper of her family’s history, but there are secrets she has kept, only because it is not her story to tell. It takes a departure from all that she knows for Sophie to truly know her family history and a practice past down through the generations which is horrifying to read. When women are mere commodities, to be owned by men, there are certain things that affect their value. Controlling the ways women behave is always set out by men, but often policed by other women.

True healing can only begin when we stop running from our past, instead we must confront it and begin to process any trauma we have experienced. Sophie’s mum must return to Haiti to do this. Meanwhile Sophie’s demons come calling when she gives birth to her daughter and actively chooses change. She must confide in her husband and seeks therapy to come to terms with her trauma. Only then can mother and daughter truly get to know one another. Despite it’s difficult subject matter I always feel that it’s a hopeful book. It seems to explore a psychological outlook I have held for a long time; anyone can create change in their life. Think how powerful and freeing that statement is. It’s up to us. This is a powerful look at a country that’s often seen as unlucky. Here we can see why and how that history has been constructed, largely by men and colonisers. Through this family of women we see a different Haiti. The violence and pain are real, but so is the beauty, the healing and the love.

There is always a place where, if you listen closely in the night, you will hear a mother telling a story and at the end of the tale she will ask you this question: “Ou libéré? Are you free my daughter?” My grandmother quickly pressed her fingers over my lips, “Now” she said “you will know how to answer.”

Meet The Author.

Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, Claire of the Sea Light, and Everything Inside. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, Best American Essays 2011, Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2. She has written seven books for children and young adults, Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last Mapou, Mama’s Nightingale, Untwine, My Mommy Medicine, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow, a 2018 Ford Foundation “The Art of Change” fellow, and the winner of the 2018 Neustadt International Prize and the 2019 St. Louis Literary Award.

Posted in Rachels Random Resources

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

As we turn into autumn, there’s less lounging in the garden with my book and a cold flask of squash and more snuggling by the log burner with a hot chocolate and a book. For some reason, that cosiness and the darker evenings draw me towards haunted or magical stories. So I was keen to read this time slip story full of ghostly goings on. In 1903 we visit All Hallows’ Asylum on Dartmoor and Nurse Emma Everdene has a new charge to look after, away from the usual inmates in an attic room. A mother and young daughter are found by a fisherman, the woman completely unconscious from a blow to the head. While she is transferred to one of the best private rooms and remains in a coma, her traumatised daughter is left in the care of Nurse Everdene. The little girl is clearly shocked and exhausted, so a room is made up with a single bed and a rocking chair near the fire so she can be monitored. She is completely mute, so the nurse doesn’t pressure her but makes sure she is warm, dry and fed. For comfort she gives her a small toy rabbit that once belonged to her son Herbert, who died when he was small.

In 1993 we meet two boys sent to All Hallows’, which is now a boarding school. Lewis is coping with grief after losing his mother and in an attempt to express himself has started dressing as a Goth. His Dad has quickly married again, and his stepmother clearly wants Lewis out of the way. She reports on how difficult he is and manipulates his father into thinking boarding school is his best option. Once there, Lewis is shorn of his Goth persona and is feeling very vulnerable, especially when he has to share room just under the attic with another boy, Isak. Isak, he finds out, is also an outcast and he gives Lewis some tips on surviving the school. They also share an interest in a nurse who was buried outside the consecrated ground of the churchyard ninety years before. What does this have to do with the abandoned room above them on the attic floor, containing only a rocking chair and a single bed? A rocking chair that the two boys can hear rocking in the middle of the night, thumping against the floorboard, as if someone is sitting in it.

It’s hard not to feel for Lewis, as he ends up with all his armour taken away from him. Without his Goth gear he’s just a boy with ears that stick out a bit too much. Luckily he finds another outsider to be with in Isak, although at first we don’t know why he is so ostracised. Emma Everdene is also fascinating and because I hate the practice of burying people outside of consecrated ground I really wanted to keep reading to find out why. The journey she takes in life is incredible, elevating herself to becoming a nurse, from very little in monetary and status terms. I also found her very resilient, having come through the deaths of both her husband and her son. I liked how her nursing manual showed working women supporting other women in their journey. When it is found in the library in 1993 the dedications show that it was passed from woman to woman, possibly because books were out of reach for women in poverty. The author also makes the point that many women were in the asylum for little more than thinking differently, or being in the way of their husband’s next conquest. Thalia is an example of a woman who has pushed the boundaries for someone of her class and gender. Staff talk about her cutting her hair short like a man and habitually wearing trousers, not to mention being a suffragette.

Emma sniffed. ‘And why shouldn’t she do those things if that’s what she wants to do? Because by doing so she causes embarrassment to her family? Because they’re hoping to marry her off to some chinless wonder with more money than manhood, some… some milksop who would be humiliated to stand beside a woman who shone more brightly than he?’

I found her father’s request that she be punished severely much more chilling than whatever was going on in the room upstairs. Emma talks about the asylum as a last resort for men who want to control and silence their women. The thought of all these people falling victim to early 20th Century asylum ‘treatments’ is terrible. It really hits home when Lewis finds iron fitments on the floor and wall in one of the classrooms in 1993. The manacles may be gone, but it still paints a picture of human misery. When Emma talks to the girl who brings their food, they talk about the treatments that are commonplace in the asylum such as the ice cold baths. Then there’s the less commonplace. When a new doctor arrives and is given the case of Mrs March, mother of Emma’s charge, he wants to try new European treatments. The staff gossip about the time he spends touching her, moving all of her limbs in turn and bending her spine in order to keep the flexibility while she’s in a coma. Emma can see that it would make sense to keep her supple, but when he moves his desk into her room so he can work there and spend more time in her company it starts to feel strangely voyeuristic. Her complete vulnerability becomes worrying.

The supernatural goings on are genuinely scary, Lewis finds the creaking rocking chair a bit unnerving but is able to be in the room and stop it moving. At first he thinks of obvious explanations like a draft setting it off, but after a few weeks he can’t brush it off any longer. The dark presence felt by both Lewis, and Emma ninety years earlier, seems to fill the room with its power. Lewis feels as if something huge is in the room and Emma feels it’s malevolence. The jumpier scares are unexpected and add to the mystery unfolding before the boys. The surrounding isolation creates a claustrophobic atmosphere and as Emma starts to feel more unnerved and more attached to the little girl we now know is called Harriet, I felt I was being rushed towards some terrible event. I thought the way both the asylum and the school were painted as places to dump inconvenient people was very apt. Even some of the techniques they used were the same, such as taking away the patient or pupil’s identity through removing their own clothing and shearing their hair off. There’s a strong feeling of trying to break individuals and make them conform. The author has created an interesting and unnerving tale, that has the tension of a thriller and creates a need to keep reading to find out all the building’s secrets. It has also reignited a childhood terror of looking into the bathroom mirror!

Published by Boldwood Books 12th October 2021.

Meet The Author

Louise Douglas lives in Somerset in South West England & writes contemporary Gothic mysteries mostly set in the countryside close to her home. She has won the RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller award 2021 for The House by the Sea.

When She’s not writing, she loves to spend time with family, friends, and animals – especially dogs, birds and whales. She’s passionate about nature, being outside, drawing wildlife, walking, beaches, fictional drama and books. If you’d like to connect with Louise you can find her on Facebook Louise Amy Douglas or @LouiseDouglas3 on Twitter.

Posted in Publisher Proof

The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain.

I don’t know how many of you are Strictly Come Dancing fans, but I hope there are a few of you out there. Last weekend we watched the third episode of this series and the professional dancers did one of their group numbers at the top of the show. Johannes was a handsome Prince and a ball was being held in his honour. As he entered the ballroom he saw the couples dancing on the floor, but seemed isolated and alone. Until a male dancer, Kai, stepped forward and asked him to dance. As they started to move round the floor his face lit up and so did mine. The other couples on the floor reformed until the ballroom was full of same sex couples. It was a joyous dance about acceptance for who we are and the ability to be open about our sexuality. It really brought tears to my eyes to see how happy Johannes was to do this dance. So, for me this was exactly the right week to read a book I’ve seen doing the rounds of BookTwitter for since January. I know I’m seriously behind most people in reading this little gem from Matt Cain, but I couldn’t miss a chance to talk about it- just in case there are other people living under a rock like me who haven’t encountered Albert Entwhistle yet.

The books sits perfectly next to the Strictly dance I mentioned, not just because of the subject matter, but because both are simply little parcels of joy! I felt uplifted every time I sat to read a few pages of this wonderful story. There’s a further little link to Strictly too, as Albert reminisces about a trip to Blackpool with his friend George. They were both young men at the time and they visit the iconic tower ballroom, where George is taken with the dancers whirling round the floor. He asks Albert to think of a world where they could take a turn round the floor like every other couple there. George exclaims how romantic it is and Albert agrees. It would be romantic, but it’s inconceivable for two men to partner up and take to the floor. In fact it seems so taboo that Arthur imagines there’s a written rule against it. Years later, when he’s 64, he revisits the ballroom to show his friend Nicole and sees a couple of men his own age, waltzing round the floor with no one batting an eyelid. A realisation follows; how can anything change while gay men remain hidden? It takes trailblazers, people willing to be uncomfortable and face public displeasure, to make things change. This gives him the courage he needs to face his fears and perhaps even alter the lonely future he imagines. Maybe he could find his friend George and talk again? He doesn’t dare to hope that the feelings could still be there, but there is a small nugget of longing for that dream. Why not? After all, he still feels the same way about George.

Until now Albert has lived very closed off from the rest of society. He’s a postman, and has a routine of arriving at the sorting office at the same time each morning, organising and sorting his load for that day. He doesn’t really interact much with his colleagues, beyond normal pleasantries. We see his lonely life at home, with rare moments of joy when he puts on a show tune and dances with his cat Gracie. So, I loved how Albert’s search for George opened him up to other experiences, particularly his friendship with single mother Nicole. He’s never been to a soft play centre before or even been this close to children. Yet she doesn’t let him hesitate or worry, and just places her daughter on Albert’s knee before he can argue. He’s never been to a pub quiz before either, but once he takes the plunge, he’s surprised how much he enjoys these new experiences. It also makes him more aware of other people’s loneliness and he starts to make little changes to try and make their lives better. His dread about revealing his sexuality to people seems disproportionate, because we live in more tolerant times. Yet, when we think back to Albert’s teenage years, homosexuality was still a crime. It’s amazing to think it was as recent as Sam Gyhima’s stint as justice minister in 2017 for a government pardon to be made to everyone jailed for their sexuality. This followed a royal posthumous pardon in 2013, for the mathematician Alan Turing. The writer’s trips back into Albert’s past, remind the reader that there are years of prejudice behind these uplifting stories. Strictly’s same sex dance routine elicited tears of emotion, because what’s now accepted enough to be on family television at prime time on Saturday night, used to elicit abuse, rejection and even criminal charges. So I found this book moving and I really did fall utterly in love with Albert. The story was heartfelt and uplifting. I would really recommend it to anyone looking for beautiful characters to engage with and story full of human emotion.

Published 27th May 2021 by Headline Review

Meet The Author

Matt Cain is an author, a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues, and a former journalist. He was Channel 4’s first Culture Editor, Editor-In-Chief of Attitude magazine, and has judged the Costa Prize, the Polari Prize and the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. He won Diversity in Media’s Journalist Of the Year award in 2017 and is an ambassador for Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, plus a patron of LGBT+ History Month. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, he now lives in London.

Posted in Random Things Tours

A Woman Made of Snow by Elizabeth Gifford.

I slowly became more and more intrigued by Elizabeth Gifford’s new novel. Even the title whetted my appetite for more of the same beautiful writing that made The Lost Lights of St Kilda such a memorable book. We’re still in Scotland, this is the late 1940’s and our heroine Caro lives with her husband Alasdair and baby Felicity in the Laundry Cottage situated in the grounds of his ancestral home. They met at Cambridge University and married less than six months later much to his mother Martha’s surprise. She was expecting him to marry someone of their class, maybe even their family friend Diana who’s valuing heirlooms at the family’s castle. Caro’s mother-in-law wanted her and Alasdair to live at the castle with her, but Caro wanted a little bit of privacy and distance. At Laundry Cottage she can still be in her dressing down at lunchtime or having a sleep while baby Felicity has a nap. Yet, the past is about to make it’s way into the present both physically and mentally. Caro is asked to research the family archives for a mysterious, missing member of the family. A great-grandmother seems to have been scrubbed from the archives, along with a missing diary from her husband Oliver’s trip to the Arctic. When the Laundry Cottage floods suddenly and workers inspect the Victorian drainage system they find a body of a woman. Could this be the missing bride?

It seems formidable mothers are the norm at Castle Kelly, because when I read the second narrative it took me back to the late Victorian period and tension between Oliver and his mother. From early childhood Louisa and Charlotte Strachan have been summer visitors to the castle and Oliver’s playmates. However, as they get older it’s clear that feelings have developed between Oliver and Louisa. Could she be the missing grandmother from the archives and the body found in the grounds? How come Oliver ended up in the Arctic? What effect will Caro’s findings have on the family and her marriage? With so many questions I was compelled by the story and some of the characters caught up in these dramatic circumstances. Also the historical shifts behind these stories was fascinating too, showing how much the world changed over two world wars.

Caro is such a sympathetic character and I felt immediately on her side in this very difficult situation she finds herself in. She’s an intelligent woman and understands a lot about how the world is changing. Her expectation of life after the war is that she and Alasdair will live in London as lecturers at one of the city’s universities. She didn’t bank on having Felicity so quickly or for Alasdair’s only offer of employment coming from St Andrew’s university. She describes feeling ‘ambushed’ by her own fertility, but she loves Felicity and wants to be a good Mum. I understood her need to be separate from the castle – it’s a compromise between his obligations and the total freedom they expected in London. I also empathised with her feelings of struggling as a new mum and being isolated from everyone and everything she knows. It’s a huge leap from being organised, full of energy, totally independent and career minded, to living in a cottage with a new baby feeling tired and slightly inadequate. She can’t understand why looking after Felicity seems so arduous and exhausting, when she’s always been so lively and alert. She also finds her emotions difficult; she’s struggling to understand why she wants to keep mother-in-law Martha at bay, or why she feels threatened by the presence of Diana. Her interest in the missing grandmother is linked to these emotions, maybe they were both outsiders in this family. It’s painful to her when she hears Martha say she’d hoped Alasdair would marry someone of his own class, surely those barriers don’t exist any more?

When I started to compare it with the 1940’s I could see that there is change, but within the Gillan family it has been minimal compared to the rest of society. Early in the novel Caro remarks that ‘she was secretly rather proud of her ability to make good friends across the classes’ because ‘once the war was over, class was not going to mean anything after all the country had been through together’. This was probably true in more metropolitan areas, but it hasn’t reached the upper class residents of rural Scotland. Martha is trying, but her true feelings are old-fashioned. The mistress of Kelly Castle in the Victorian period is Sylvia and she resents her husband’s adherence to an old obligation. He invites the daughters of old family friends, Charlotte and Louisa Strachan, to the castle every summer. Whereas Louisa tries desperately to fit in, Charlotte is a more fiery and independent character and I fell in love with her. As soon as she cut her own hair off I knew I would enjoy her way of being in the world.

To Sylvia’s disgust, Charlotte brings a young girl called Mary into the children’s circle. They run wild in the grounds and don’t seem to notice the differences between them. This changes as they get older until one summer Mary’s aunt asks Charlotte not to run in and out of Laundry Cottage where they live, tempting Mary to play when this year she had to work. As far as Sylvia’s concerned the girl is lucky to be merely helping her aunt, because the true destiny of the poor girls of Dundee is in the jute mills that pay for Kelly Castle. When Charlotte defies her, bringing Mary along on an outing to see the family’s new whaling ship and dinner in the Castle Hotel. When Sylvia asks Charlotte to remove her beret at dinner, she sees her unseemly cropped hair. Charlotte knows a punishment is coming, but what her aunt does next makes her sick and heartbroken. Without any emotion she tells the driver to take them home via the jute mill. There, she ushers Mary into the office as a new mill girl for the foreman to set to work. Sylvia has wanted Mary in her proper place for some time, but the opportunity to put Charlotte in her place at the same time was too good to miss. Charlotte is devastated. Sylvia now has to find a way of dealing with the Strachan girls, she has her eye on a young lady for Oliver and she doesn’t want her plans scuppered by a crush on someone unsuitable.

I found it interesting how patterns seemed to have formed down the generations. Some brides were suitable to be the next mistress of Kelly Castle, and others were not. Caro’s mother-in-law kept her misgivings and disappointment over her son’s choice to private conversations. Sylvia had been so determined and cruel in her treatment of Charlotte and Louisa that I wondered what fate awaited Oliver’s unsuitable bride, whoever she was. Since there are family rumours surrounding the Arctic voyage with hints of cannibalism, I was worried for this unnamed woman.

This author always creates an incredible sense of place and the beautifully atmospheric opening is reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the ghostly walk up the drive of Manderley. A woman sees Caro and tries to call out to her from her place beneath the earth.

‘Wrapped in darkness beneath the trees I watch rain falling on the earth where I have slept for so long. Light from the Cottage windows stretches across the lawns, but it does not reach me. Find me, I whisper. Give me my name.’

Her need for Caro to hear her showed a spirit undimmed by death. I was really interested in this and the theme of women being controlled or even erased by forces or expectations beyond their control. As the unnamed woman sits beneath the earth, Caro feels removed from the life she wanted by motherhood. Mary is taken from a carefree childhood to the responsibilities and restrictions of adulthood overnight. It had been hoped that she might be given a maid’s position in the castle, but her destiny is at the jute mill. Charlotte isn’t even allowed to cut her hair, and she hates the prissy dresses she’s expected to wear as a guest of the Gillan family. She doesn’t understand why her friendship with Oliver has to change, just because she’s older.

‘Angry tears pricked her eyes.While they were away at school that year it seemed that someone had decreed that childhood was over, a closing down of what a girl may or may not do – and a forewarning of the hardening of roles to come that she saw in the lives of the adults around her. Well, Charlotte was not going to accept it. She would stay true to herself and true to the things she loved.’

I was sad for her, and her sister Louisa. It’s interesting to see how both girls react to the effects of being from a poorer and lower class background. I was compelled to read on and find out about these girls in adulthood, not just their relationship with Oliver, but how they were making their way in the world. I wanted Charlotte to have retained that fire and attitude and hoped that circumstances hadn’t tamed her. There is just so much to love about this novel: the well written characters; the intriguing mystery of the unnamed woman; the depth of research into the two time periods especially into societal changes, class difference and the lives of women. I heartily recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction, women’s lives and family secrets. This is one of those books that I loved so much, I will be buying a finished copy, despite having the proof. It’s so atmospheric, romantic, and deeply poignant.

Meet The Author.

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

Posted in Sunday Spotlight

Sunday Spotlight! Susan Hill.

Many readers, especially those who love crime fiction, will know Susan Hill from her Simon Serrailler series of novels. I collect those too, but the first of her novels I read was actually at school. At the age of 12 we were told to read I’m The King of the Castle and then write the second chapter, developing the story as we thought it might go. I wrote a sinister piece suggesting that the main character might be on a path to becoming a serial killer. From there I was hooked on her ghost stories, they were sinister, dark and mysterious. They’re also very short, (novellas really) so they’re perfect for hospital and train journeys. They have a very interesting way of creeping up on the reader. Sometimes, I’ve been half way through a story, thinking it doesn’t feel spooky at all, only to be terrified two pages later. I’m sharing with you my thoughts on four of her books that had an effect on me and might leave you listening for a creak on the stairs.

Edmund is an 11 year old boy who lives alone with his father after his mother’s death. Worried that Edmund is lonely, his father arranges for a live-in housekeeper who has a boy around the same age as Edmund. He hoped Charles would be a companion for Edmund, but Edmund isn’t thrilled and Charles is greeted with a note that says ‘I didn’t want you to come here’. There is an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia in the novel and not just because of the remote location. I started to dread every moment the boys were left alone together, because I knew that Charles would be subjected to Edmund’s bullying. I felt Charles’s fear and despair that this would go on forever. I wanted their parents to notice what was happening, but the boys are alone a lot of the time. The parents are making eyes at each other, wrapped up in their own emotions. His mother admits to making a decision and to ignore Charles’s complaints that Edmund really doesn’t like him. She decides he’s being silly with this talk about them not being friends. Boys do this. It’s just a phase. Everyone remembers a time when they weren’t listened to and I could sense Charles’s anger and frustration at his impossible situation. The ending is a shock, but I think if it had ended any other way I’d have been disappointed. Sometimes things like this don’t blow over. This isn’t for people who like uplifting, happy, endings. It isn’t really horror, in that it’s very realistic. That realism is what makes Edmund and Charles’s story so chilling.

This is probably the most well known of Hill’s ghostly tales, especially since it’s other incarnations as a long running West End play and a successful film starring Daniel Radcliffe. This book was the one that really crept up on me. Since childhood I’ve had a recurring dream, where I’m standing in a corridor and I get an overwhelming sense of evil. Then a creeping blackness starts coming towards me, completely enveloping everything in it’s path. That’s exactly how I felt reading this. At first I was just interested in the story and despite the obvious signs that something is wrong with this house, I didn’t feel scared. Then I woke up in the middle of the night and felt a little bit scared about going to the loo. For some reason I kept thinking someone would be sat on the rocking chair. For some reason this book gets in your head. Even when you think it isn’t. This is the archetypal Gothic novel with an opening reminiscent of Dracula as Arthur Kipps is sent to sort out the estate of a very reclusive woman who died at Eel Marsh House. None of the locals are keen on travelling there and Kipps is too rational to listen to their warnings. He doesn’t believe in ghosts. So we feel his fear, as slowly this rational belief is called into question by every noise or movement, especially the ones that come from the resident poltergeist. Soon after his arrival he sees a mysterious woman, dressed all in black, who seems to be staring directly at him. Who is she and what does she want from Arthur? Hill builds the tension up perfectly, it’s a slow boil until you’re suddenly terrified, but never felt it creeping up on you.

When I was in Venice with my mum, we managed to lose our way back to the hotel one evening. As we stumbled down darkened streets and into complete dead ends, we realised we’d come away from the tourist trail and into a more residential area. This was the book that kept coming to mind and I was waiting to be bundled into a gondola by plague masked men. This is one of those stories that begins with two people warming themselves by a fire on a dark evening. Oliver is at Cambridge University and on this particular night he is in the rooms of his professor, when he notices a painting on the wall. It is a beautifully painted scene of the carnival in Venice and Oliver stops to study it for a while. There is so much to take in, especially the beautiful masks and costumes. Yet this beautiful surface is itself a mask, because the painting has a very dark history. We have all been ‘caught’ by a picture, the one in the gallery window that makes us stop for a moment, but have you ever been captured? This story has a lot of detail in its 150-ish pages and so much atmosphere. Whether it’s Venice’s labyrinthine pathways and dead ends, or the eerie mist of the Cambridge Fens.

This book grabbed me straightaway because my mum had a visit from the small hand once. When in the house babysitting her younger sisters, she saw a small hand holding the open bedroom door, just as if a small child was going to peep round it. Neither sister was the right age for the mystery hand and alongside other strange sightings in the house it was put down to some sort of haunting. Even fifty years on she hasn’t forgotten it. There’s nothing scarier than a little child ghost (except a clown *shudder*). In this story, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit one late evening when he takes a wrong turn. He stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house, and compelled by curiosity, approaches the door. Standing before the entrance, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’. At first he is puzzled by the odd incident, but then begins to suffer attacks of fear and panic, and is visited by nightmares. He is determined to learn more ‘about the house and its once-magnificent, now overgrown garden but when he does so, he receives further, increasingly sinister, visits from the small hand. This is a classic ghost story, narrated by Adam as he tries to unravel the mystery. This one really feels like a period novel due to the linear storytelling, sole narrator and the slow drip feed of information so we can put the clues together. Maybe not as atmospheric as her usual stories, but a great read all the same.

One of the creepiest parts of the film version of The Woman in Black is when the toys in the nursery move – I think it’s a monkey with cymbals or is that just my fertile imagination? We’re back on the misty fens for this story, Two cousins are sent to stay with their Aunt in her isolated ancestral home for the summer. Edward and Lenora are the children of Aunt Kestrel’s warring siblings and their narrative is split into two time frames – the events of that childhood summer and the two cousins returning to Iyot House after their Aunt’s death. Hill manages to create a fairly forbidding atmosphere for the two children with constant rain, falling across a gloomy flat landscape where mist can stay over the fields all day. The house is very like Eel Marsh House in The Woman in Black, with an atmosphere of damp and decay. The two are quite different. Edward is the more stoic of the two, he is shy and polite and probably wouldn’t dream of opening his mouth if something is wrong. Leonora is a different prospect- she comes across as self-centred and spiteful. This could be down to a lifestyle drifting from hotel to stepfather for many years, she’s been awash with material things but hasn’t really been loved.

However, at Iyot House she starts to throw huge tantrums. Are they normal for her or is something at Iyot causing this? Housekeeper Mrs Mullen observes the tantrums are worsening and warns that she has the devil in her. Aunt Kestrel sets out to buy Leonora a birthday present she’s never had, a doll. Yet the doll has an effect no one expected. The opening to this story is really creepy and the atmosphere is incredible, perhaps more so than the actual story in parts. However creepy antique dolls really are terrifying so a haunted one is right up my street and this doll’s powers extend all the way through to Leonora and Edward’s adulthood. Scary and sure to make you avoid antique centres for a while.

Meet The Author.

Susan Hill‘s novels and short stories have won the Whitbread Book, Somerset Maugham, and John Llewellyn Rhys Awards and the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year and have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The play adapted from her famous ghost novel, The Woman in Black, has been running in the West End since 1989. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Posted in Netgalley

The Unheard by Nicci French.

I read this novel on the four hour drive to North Wales and spent most of the first day of my holiday absolutely enthralled with the story. I was hooked immediately, intrigued by the mystery of what exactly Tess’s daughter Poppy had seen or heard. Tess is starting a new life in a garden flat with her daughter, after a divorce from husband Jason. Having a background as a child of divorce, Tess was determined that Poppy should be their number one priority. No matter how much animosity and hurt they feel, their interaction with each other must be civil and they prioritise time with both parents. Jason is already remarried to Emily, a much younger woman who seems very sweet and tries hard to have a relationship with Poppy. They have set times for Poppy to visit and stay over at her dad’s house and this has been going well, although every time Poppy’s belongings are put in a bag to transfer from one house to the other, Tess hopes she understands what is happening to her. Tess has started seeing a man called Aidan recently and she’s optimistic about their relationship so far. One Saturday, Poppy returns from an overnight at her father’s and displays signs of distress. These were classic symptoms, that any counsellor like me, would be concerned by. She’s clingy, she wets the bed and seems to be having nightmares. Over a week these symptoms worsen: she bites a girl at school, uses foul language to her teacher, and her mother is terrified for her. She has her attention drawn to a picture Poppy has drawn, all in black crayon which is a huge contrast from her normal rainbow creations. The picture shows a tower and a woman falling from the top to the ground below. ‘He killed her’ she tells her Mum ‘and killed and killed and killed’.

I was hooked and my partner claims I barely spoke to him for two days straight because I was so absorbed in Poppy’s world. Tess is scared for her daughter, but what can she actually do without traumatising her further? Jason insists it’s just a drawing and probably doesn’t mean anything. No one seemed as alarmed as Tess, so who can she go to? This sets in motion an enthralling story where my suspicions were first sent in one direction, then another. As well as suspecting every character at different points in the novel, I was also wondering whether it was about Tess. Was she an over concerned mother affected by her divorce and her ex-husband’s sudden remarriage? The writer excels at bringing tiny little clues into the narrative that create a doubt in the reader’s mind. Bernie, the upstairs neighbour, is a little odd and makes a couple of remarks to Tess that concerned me. Was he dangerous or just a little eccentric and inappropriate at times? Weird coincidences cropped up that couldn’t be explained by anything except foul play or malicious intent. However, the more this happened, Tess became even more anxious and started to give the impression of being unhinged. As the police became involved, they suspected an overprotective mother and couldn’t find anything to investigate. This spurred Tess on to carry out her own investigation, searching for women who’d died falling from a building and trying to forge links with people in their circle. One sympathetic officer does try to help, but ends up with a dressing down for wasting her time. It takes a long time, and some near misses, for Tess to sit back and realise what her behaviour must look like from the outside. However, just because someone appears over anxious, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about.

I think one of these author’s many strengths is their ability to conjure up the ordinary everyday moments we all recognise in life, between the tension and scares. It helps the reader identify with these characters, to accept that they’re real and empathise even more with their predicament. I could feel the tension coming off Tess, and the hurt as well, because some of her discoveries are personally painful. Yet she still has to get Poppy up and to school, then go to work and come home to cook tea and do those domestic chores that we all do in a day. The mental load of being a single parent is enough without the extra suspicions about every new person who has come into their circle. Her fear that someone has invaded that safe, domestic space is one all readers can identify with. The tension is almost unbearable towards our final revelation and it wasn’t the ending I was expecting at all. It makes you think about how far you would go to protect your children. This was a fascinating, addictive read with a menacing atmosphere throughout. Be prepared to lose a couple of days if you pick up this book, you won’t regret it.

Published on 16th September 2021 by Simon and Schuster UK

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who write psychological thrillers together.

Posted in Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday! Melmoth by Sarah Perry.

‘Oh my friend, won’t you take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!’

This week for Throwback Thursday – which has rolled onto Friday since I’m in a remote part of Wales with poor internet access – I’m going to take a spooky turn and tell you about one of the most terrifying and gloriously gothic novels I have ever read. Melmoth the Witness is a figure from mythology, or is she? Known as one of the woman who witnessed the tomb on the morning that Christ resurrected, she is now an eternal traveller. Wandering the centuries she lures people into following her, whereupon they too become damned to an eternity of itinerant, solitary wandering.

Set in the beautifully, atmospheric city of Prague we meet a woman called Helen who finds a manuscript. It tells of a winter in Prague, with all the darkly gothic details of cobbled streets, shadowy corners, and jackdaws patrolling the city walls. One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin meets her friend Karel on the street. Agitated and enthralled, he tells her he has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with personal testimonies that take them from 17th-century England to wartime Czechoslovakia, the tropical streets of Manila, and 1920s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing an unforgettable message. Helen reads its contents with intrigue and some scepticism, but everything in her life is about to change. We follow Helen’s story, but within it are all the other stories and lives, creating a Russian doll style tale, but where each incarnation has the same sense of menace and impending doom.

This is based on an 1820 novel by Charles Robert Maturin called Melmoth the Wanderer, that very few people will have read. I studied a wonderful module at university entitled The Gothic, Grotesque and the Monstrous and I know from experience that early gothic novels can be long winded and difficult to read. What was found terrifying in 1820 does not necessarily translate today. In the original novel, Melmoth is a man who makes an almost Faustian pact, in this version she is one of the women who visits Christ’s tomb. She could have borne witness to the resurrection, but lied and is now damned to wander the world forever. She’s like a Sybil, heralding evil and disastrous events, but never listened to and doomed to witness the worst humans can do to each other over and over. I love the ambiguity of her pleas to ‘take her hand and follow her’ because she’s lonely, is she friend or foe? Her pleas are all the more tempting because she’s a woman and we associate that with gentleness, nurturing and perhaps even needing protection. There’s also the element of seduction and persuasion that might make a gentleman take her lonely hand. I think Sarah Perry made this choice because of those qualities. How much more effective could a woman be in gathering souls?

I love how Prague is turned into a haunted city and it’s history certainly might have drawn the wanderer to it’s cobbles. The city is the book’s second biggest character, dark and mysterious with magical landmarks like the astronomical clock. Perry’s descriptions of night in the city are haunting, and if I ever visit the capital I might well look over my shoulder when out in the evening in the same way I do in Venice. It is the perfect backdrop for the modern section of the novel, with every inch of the city steeped in history and the endless pull between light and darkness. Perry brings to life fears we have all had, as Helen draws the curtains at night, because she fears looking up at the window and seeing that lonely, beseeching face. The most terrifying thought is that Melmoth bears witness to anything we have ever done, including those awful things we hope no one witnessed or found out about.

I think an important aspect of the novel for me is something any sort of ‘listener’ has to think about. It’s the toll witnessing takes on a person. This book is brief compared to the original novel, but still takes in the breadth of the horrors experienced in Prague throughout the 20th Century. It made me imagine being present to witness the trenches of WW1, the Holocaust, and so many other atrocities and personal tragedies. I’ve worked in mental health for twenty years and I’m taking a break at the moment to study. I know the emotional toll that listening to people’s stories can take on the listener or observer. For Melmoth, this would be so much worse because she has to sit back and witness all of humanity’s horrors. Even worse, she has no power to change anything, but is doomed merely to witness. No wonder she wants other souls to witness with her, she must feel the weight of the horrors yet to come.