I finished reading this a while ago, just kept forgetting to update this over here. I actually saw this as a movie first when I was about seven years...moreI finished reading this a while ago, just kept forgetting to update this over here. I actually saw this as a movie first when I was about seven years old and it scared the pants off of me and gave me nightmares for weeks. I saw it again when I was nine years old and loved it (as I was really into ghosts at the time) but when I was eleven, while I still loved it, it gave me a nightmare of the woman in black flying through my bedroom door screaming.
Woman in Black, you are one scary lady to stay with me this long.
I saw the movie recently (which inspired me to find and read the book) and I couldn't help but laugh at the effects that awed and terrified me as a child though the basic plot is very evocative--it sort of stays with you in a way that keeps one laying awake at night, replaying the images again and again of the mirror like marshes reflecting the moon on their glass like surfaces before the impenetrable fog and mist rolls in, the clatter of the pony and cart, the screaming of a child and the woman in black watching. Possibly even, watching you.
As for the book itself it was a little slow to start, perhaps because I was anxiously waiting for the Woman, but I was rewarded because it is a slow build, stacking the creepiness of the surroundings, the isolation and the malevolence of the haunting into one overwhelming, if inevitable, finish. A very good ghost story, in my opinion, but again I may be a little biased as I have loved the movie for a very long time.(less)
I pretty much reviewed each short story in my updates as I finished them, excepting Sand which was the last of stories in this collection so I guess I...moreI pretty much reviewed each short story in my updates as I finished them, excepting Sand which was the last of stories in this collection so I guess I'll start there. I didn't like it so much, found it terribly difficult to get into, the characters seeming very vague and indistinct to me. I suppose I was also (unfairly) expecting some blockbuster-esque sand dramatics whereas Blackwood is a little bit more subtle/metaphysical/spiritual than what I was hoping for.
Overall, I liked some of the stories (Glamour of the Snow, Ancient Sorceries and Man Who Found Out) and was bored to tears by other of the stories (the Man Whom the Trees Loved and Sand). Mostly (oddly?) I quite liked the footnotes which in some cases afforded a more in-depth look about each piece. (less)
Butterfly Effect and emotionally dysfunctional family is all I could think, where someone has a Big Secret and it eats at the character throughout the...moreButterfly Effect and emotionally dysfunctional family is all I could think, where someone has a Big Secret and it eats at the character throughout the novel but somehow this secret touches everyone beyond the person it directly effects, basically ruining their lives. One must wait until the end to get the Big Reveal, in regards to the drowning. Both Ruth and Amanda (the two quasi-narrators, when the text isn't busy jumping back and forth between third person perspective and the first person perspective) are seriously emotionally constipated but also clingy to the point of smothering. On the one hand I'm inclined to blame the grandmother (yes I'm still looking for that insanity bit, passing on through the generations) but all she wanted was a bit of peace and quiet whereas the other two had major issues of letting go. Well, and maybe they were a little neurotic too.
I guess I'm just disappointed because I was simply hoping for a book about a woman who went crazy, tried to drown her daughter and drowned instead. I was hoping that's where it was going in the first couple of chapters but then it went somewhere else completely. Ah well. Maybe next time.(less)
**spoiler alert** My rating for this book hovered somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star. On the one hand it comes to the predictable and, in many ways, i...more**spoiler alert** My rating for this book hovered somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star. On the one hand it comes to the predictable and, in many ways, inevitable conclusion but on the other, I liked that third layer created by the narrator who (rather than being passive in the telling of someone else's story) in many ways orchestrates the entire fiasco, what with his god-complex and obsessions. I suppose, at the end of the day, there wasn't anything redeeming about the narrative, it was simply a snapshot of lives being torn asunder by passion and apathy (yes, Stella, I am looking at YOU). People like her should not have children... And Peter, Mr Narrator sir, at the end of the day, despite the psychopaths you "treat" in the hopes of "rehabilitation", you were, by far, the creepiest. I can understand why people sometimes call the psychiatric trade a sham business.
In terms of style and the way the story was laid out... yes, I do appreciate the neatness of the ending, the coming full circle.(less)
Oddly (or maybe not) while reading this I couldn't help thinking of parables and the Giving Tree in particular when thinking of Prince Myshkin. Rather...moreOddly (or maybe not) while reading this I couldn't help thinking of parables and the Giving Tree in particular when thinking of Prince Myshkin. Rather than giving himself physically (as the tree did in the aforementioned) he instead made gifts of his understanding, his desire to see the good in others rather than the glaring bad, and in the end his simple wordless empathy when he strove to comfort those "less fortunate". Which leads back to the irony of the tale as Prince Myshkin, perhaps the most deserving of empathy and sympathy (which he receives little of as most scoff and scorn him), is considered an "idiot" by the standard of the day what with his bouts of epilepsy (he was returning from a stay at a sanatorium in Europe at the story's opening) and also by his guileless, in many ways naive, idealism in the face of the scandals and corruption in Russia's high society.
What's most fascinating to me about this story are interactions with the prince, the ways in which the other characters are in part drawn to, charmed, repulsed and baffled by him in turn. There is the mad, obsessive, passionate Rogozhin, the rival (but also first friend of the Prince on his return to Russia). There is the cunning (or downright crazy), flighty, indomitable Nastasya Filippovna, the beauty of the tale who revels in her own ruined reputation. Then there is Aglaya, the other beauty, the one who reviles the prince as much as she comes, perhaps, to love him in the end (though in my mind I think she may have wanted to make a pet of him, her own resident spectacle) These characters are all deeply flawed and it is rather like watching a train crash. A very good read, though my review can't give it the justice it deserves. (less)