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The Ghost Writer

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  4,064 Ratings  ·  563 Reviews
In this tantalizing tale of Victorian ghost stories and family secrets, timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago. Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. As he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he reali ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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THE GHOST WRITER (Psy. Horror-Gerard Freeman-Aust/England-Cont) - NR
Harwood, John – 1st book
Harcourt, 2004, US Hardcover – ISBN: 0151010749

First Sentence: I first saw the photograph on a hot January afternoon in my mother’s bedroom.

Gerard Freeman grew up in Australia with an uninvolved father and an overbearing mother who had grown up in England but, other than stories about the house, won’t talk about her family. Searching through his mother’s dresser he does find a ghost story written by his g
I picked up this audiobook because Simon Vance read it. I love his reading style (and his voice), and so I took a chance on this book. And as far as the reading went, it was great. The story, however, didn't quite live up to it.

This is quite an intricate story about family history and secrets, and contains more than a few stories within the story. That's usually not anywhere in the vicinity of my favorite thing, and that was the case here as well. I like a good gothic mystery as much as the nex
Mar 24, 2007 Cheryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found it messy and not at all scary. It seemed pretty clear from the beginning of the book where the plot would lead. There were a few twists and turns but no real surpises. There were stories within stories - but I did not find they added anything to the book. I was ready to give up on the book but finished it just because I had invested so much time. Had I known the author got bored and seemed to decide to end the book I would have quite after half way thru. Arg, as a friend of mine would sa ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Charlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Charlene by: Jon and Joanne
Shelves: ghost-stories
This was a good ghost story/mystery. At times it was reminiscent of Peter Straub's Ghost Story, most especially regarding the story within a story aspect.

The Ghost Writer is a slow burning novel, so horror readers that are looking for lots of action and gore will be disappointed.

That said, horror lovers that enjoy well told intricate stories that include ghosts as well as some nasty humans, will like this tale.

May 25, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review from Badelynge.
Gerrard Freeman is a young Librarian living in Australia with his secretive mother. As a child he found a mysterious photograph and a strange ghost story written by his great-grandmother Viola Hatherley. The discovery causes his mother to abandon any mention of her former life in England, a life until that point lit up by sunlit tales of an idyllic country house named Staplefield. Gerrard believes there is a dark secret to be discovered which he shares with his only confida
Although certain elements (veiled specters, haunted mansions, a porcelain doll that comes to life, and the finding of hidden photographs, for example) of John Harwood’s stylish debut novel The Ghost Writer, could be termed cliché, the story this book tells is such an old-fashioned "ripping good yarn," I didn’t care if he occasionally made use of the cliché or not.

The Ghost Writer is the story of Gerard Freeman, a lonely, awkward, sexually repressed boy growing up in Mawson, Australia in the 1960
Dec 26, 2007 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007, december
There was so much I enjoyed about this book. I especially liked how Gerard's exploration into the mystery of his mother's past was used as a vehicle to present some nice classic ghost stories. However I didn't feel that the ending was very well constructed. I usually don't require a book to have a perfectly tidy ending but this one was just a little TOO loose.
Claire M.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
To say this book is a page-turner is an understatement. Books containing stories within stories often suffer from one strand of the narrative being more interesting than the other, but I found Viola's ghost stories every bit as compelling (and authentic - they reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe and genuinely felt as if they'd been written by someone else) as Gerard's modern-day tale. A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to truly enjoy the story - if you really think about it, it's ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Augh, poor Gerard!! Seriously creepy and entangled, I totally did not see the end coming. I knew it would be something twisty and weird, but did not suss out the specifics. I got a bit lost here and there in amongst all the names, and at times it was hard to tell what was real (i.e., part of the main narrative) and what wasn't (i.e., part of one of the stories-within-a-story), but overall it was really well done. The stories-within-a-story were intriguing, sort of High Gothic, and made me wish V ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Harwood sure knows how to write a ghost story. Sadly I don't think he knows how to end a ghost story - at least not this one. Until the last 6 or 7 pages I thought this was one of the best books for ghosts, hauntings, creepy houses, and family secrets that I had found in a long time. The story centers on Gerard who lives an unbelievably boring life in Australia with his unbelievably boring father and his mysterious, not especially loving mother. Gerard grows up with nothing to fill his life ...more
I missed this when it came out but recently read a review of Harwood's latest book, The Seance. Couldn't get that one from the library, so I started with this one. It's a contemporary take on the traditional English haunted-house-and-ghost story, with lost letters, hidden documents, family secrets, generation-spanning mysteries, and other touches reminiscent of M.R. James, Wilkie Collins, and especially Sheridan LeFanu's Uncle Silas. Very well written, with some wonderfully eerie, suspenseful sc ...more
Jonathan Briggs
One hot day in January, a little boy named Gerard goes snooping thru his mother's dresser drawers while she's snoozing. He finds a battered, stained book and a photograph of a beautiful woman with a mysterious smile. Then his mother wakes up. "She sprang, hitting and hitting and hitting me, screaming in time to the blows that fell wherever she could reach." Hold up ... give me a minute here ... OK. All right. I'm OK. I must admit, I got a little misty reading this as it reminded me of my own dea ...more
May 16, 2016 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Whoa! This was the kind of book that had me looking over my shoulder and jumping at every noise. Set in the contemporary world, a young archivist sets out to solve a family mystery and gets more than he bargained for.

John Harwood really built up atmosphere in the story. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be about an overbearing mother's need to control her only son and his struggle to gain independence. But when mysterious stories and pictures along with invisible penpals s
Oct 19, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 19, 2008 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A young Australian boy is fascinated by his mother's stories of her childhood home in England. Inspired by these and by his dreams of England, he starts a correspondence with a crippled English girl, and ends by falling obsessively in love. When he presses his mother to tell him more about her childhood, she becomes angry and refuses. His researches into his family history uncover a mysterious photograph, enigmatic letters, and a ghost story, apparently written by his grandmother. When he comes ...more
Aug 18, 2011 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gothic mystery, gloomy, dark stories, stories within stories, fans
Recommended to Carol by: Book Group Buzz, Gary Niebuhr
Shelves: fiction
What to make of this book. I really had to think about it. I really liked the first chapters, the middling’ part found me a bit bored, and then came confusion, and then I got back into the story full swing. It’s difficult to rate The Ghost Writer. I wouldn’t say “you have to read this” but liked it well enough. Perhaps this is a bit vague but something didn’t quite work for me in the end.

The Ghost Writer is a moody story, gloomy, dark and a bit gothic in tone. I don’t think I’m giving anything
Mar 07, 2013 Misha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
BookList: Harwood's debut is a haunting literary gothic, a slow-building suspense thriller about family secrets and ghosts that is reminiscent of both Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark (1997) and the paranormal film The Others. Gerard Freeman, a solitary librarian, lives in Australia with his reticent and fearfully anxious mother, who once regaled him with stories of her idyllic childhood in the English countryside with her grandmother, Viola. When Gerald discovers one of Viola's ghost stories ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gerard, the protagonist, has a secretive pen pal, a mother who will not discuss her past and a great-grandmother who wrote ghost of which apparently came true.

It was a little slow getting into this one but it ended with a bang.

This was Harwood's first novel. The second one The Seance was also very good.

Others are comparing John Harwood to Wilkie Collins, not a bad comparison.
Jan 02, 2013 Jae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, gothic
This was very obviously a debut novel, with too many characters and dates thrown at the reader. Nevertheless and enjoyable read overall.
May 28, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2012 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

It's The Fall of the House of Usher but not so nearly well written.

I have really no idea what prompts me to do this to myself.

I was discouraged by the many stories within a story - that starts to drive me mad after a bit and I had the sinking feeling that no ghost would appear - yes indeed it would be the mad woman in the attic.

I guess we could find a moral in the story - don't fall in love sight unseen but what's the fun in that?

No, wait stop me.

You see, I'll make a confession, I'm on the h
Jan 14, 2013 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The marvelous and creepy debut novel from the author of The Séance. I could not put this book down. It was literally haunting my thoughts throughout my day. Luring me back into it’s story. Another novel that is made up of multiple layers of narrative all twisting together to create a superbly oppressive tale. In Australia, Gerard Freeman, at age 10, sneaks into his mother’s room and finds a picture of a woman he has never seen or heard of. His mother discovers him and gives him the beating of hi ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Schiariti
Nov 19, 2012 Matt Schiariti rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it's because I'm not a horror afficianado or expert...but I just couldn't get this book done with fast enough..not because I was horribly addicted to, I just wanted to get the experience over with and move onto a better book as soon as I could...

The premise? A young boy finds a mysterious picture of a relative who turns out to be his grandmother in his mother's drawer one day while snooping around and she catches him red handed. A strained relationship is the result of this little v
Feb 17, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although avoiding spoilers (since this is not a new novel) I did notice that many people had a problem with the end of this book. I agree that it ends a bit abruptly, particularly since it took so long to get there. But what an enjoyable trip! A perfectly, richly written gothic ghost story with the bonus of even better Inception-esq stories-within-stories that were my favorite part of the whole book. The short stories, as we discover were written by the main character's grandmother, could've bee ...more
Jul 23, 2007 Femmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Menurutku buku ini lumayan juga. Kisahnya tentang Gerard Freeman yang tinggal di Australia, bersama ibunya yang paranoid dan menutup diri soal masa lalunya di Inggris. Suatu hari Gerard menemukan foto dan naskah cerita di laci lemari di kamar ibunya, tapi langsung dimarahi, entah kenapa. Jadi penasaran...

Lalu Gerard mulai bersahabat pena dengan seorang gadis lumpuh di Inggris, dan seiring tahun-tahun berlalu, persahabatan mereka berubah menjadi jalinan asmara, meskipun si gadis tak pernah mau me
Jun 12, 2013 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic, spooky
What a wonderful book! It is even more enjoyable than I originally expected! This is one of those titles that I have picked up many times before finally purchasing it. In the past, the rather lackluster back description would cause me to set it back on the shelves, but after hemming and hawing over it for a few years, I am really glad to have read it! I am amazed at how little justice the back description gives the book. Not only does this have a solid plot, but the writing is more vivid and int ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a delicious book this was to read. The perfect mixture of mystery/horror and gothic suspense. This is much like those Russian nesting dolls...ghost stories within ghost stories...all of them tied together with little overlapping plots.

The main character is Gerard Freeman...who you first meet as young boy living with his parents in Australia. Gerard is surrounded with the mystery of his mother’s past...and the mystery of his pen-pal, a young girl his age living in England. The plot follows G
Jun 18, 2012 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as good as Sarah Waters or Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but still a very good atmospheric gothic thriller in its own right. Particularly impressive being a debut novel. Loved the stories within a story aspect, even though the writing style of both was very similar and it would have been more striking for them to differ. The elusive love connection part of the plot does require some suspension of disbelief...seriously, that many years? seriously? But then again this is stylized to be a sweeping v ...more
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The Ending 7 147 Jul 12, 2016 11:30PM  
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  • The Man in the Picture
  • Grange House
  • Late Victorian Gothic Tales
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  • Florence & Giles
  • Haunted Legends
  • Angelica
  • The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories
  • Jane-Emily
  • The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
  • Sweetheart, Sweetheart
  • The White Devil
  • The Dark Lantern
  • Property of a Lady (Nell West/Michael Flint, #1)
  • Captivity
  • The Dwelling
  • The Unseen
John Harwood is the author of two previous novels of Victorian Gothic suspense. Aside from fiction, his published work includes biography, poetry, political journalism and literary history. His acclaimed first novel, The Ghost Writer, won the International Horror Guild's First Novel Award. He lives in Hobart, Australia.
More about John Harwood...

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“Perhaps I'd be happier if I had a boring job like Filly, but then I wouldn't have any time to myself. I waste so much time and then I resent it when I don't have time to waste.” 4 likes
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