Dreadlocksmile's Reviews > The Birthing House

The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
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May 09, 2009

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Read in May, 2009

First published in 2008, Christopher Ransom’s debut novel ‘The Birthing House’ was massively publicised with a considerable amount of hype around its release and subsequent reprinting.

Set in the quiet and somewhat quaint town of Black Earth (with the geographical liberties stretched for fiction’s sake), Ransom introduces the novel’s principal character Conrad Harrison, who decides to purchase an old property in this subdued town, in order to start off a new life with his wife Jo. The house Conrad purchases was once a birthing house, which soon begins to reveal a very supernatural side to the property.

Ransom throws in ‘the girl next door’ for a racy subplot, whilst Conrad’s wife is away in LA working. Packed with complicated emotional confusion and deep routed tensions in the relationship between Conrad and his wife Jo, the novel takes on a much more emotionally focused role. With the developing feelings emerging between Conrad and the pregnant girl next door named Nadia, the hauntings that are occurring become much more dangerous when Nadia’s life and that of her unborn child are threatened.

The tale builds in tension until the horrific truth behind Conrad’s new home is unearthed. The house has its own agenda and strange powers that are unleashed as the plot hurtles towards its climax.

Ransom has managed to create a likable character in Conrad that allows the reader to easily identify with him. Conrad’s casual lifestyle and slightly shy approach to the world, brings out qualities that most people can identify with in some way or another. His versatile moods give the reader an opportunity to feel part of the character and subsequently sympathise with the strange happenings that are occurring within the house.

With a heavy weight put on each of the relationships within the storyline, the book has multiple paths for Ransom to allow the reader to explore. The confusing nature behind Conrad’s feelings towards his wife, Nadia and even his ex-girlfriend, leaves an unsettled undertone running throughout the tale. This adds a further eeriness to the general atmosphere of the book, with subtle moments scattered throughout that leave the reader questioning almost every one of the characters motivations and even their individual sanity.

The novel falls foul of clumsiness from time to time; with a slightly abstract quality to the writing that Ransom has allowed to creep in, whether purposely or not. This brings out a slight confusion to the tale that is not always a helpful state for the developing plot.

The book’s moments depicting sex are infrequent yet memorable in their intensity. Ransom has not limited himself with this first novel by holding back on these elements, but instead he has embraced the importance of the acts within the storyline, allowing them to flesh out the characters more, along with incorporating the acts into the complexities of the plot.

The novel ends on a vague and very suggestive note, putting the onus on the reader to take from the explanation what they will.

‘The Birthing House’ has a number of moments that are more clichéd than creepy, but fortunately this doesn’t seem to really impact a great deal on the overall enjoyment of the novel. There are indeed sparks of originality within the tale, but Ransom has not taken them any further, leaving the novel as a mediocre read at best.

All in all, ‘The Birthing House’ delivers a lukewarm horror story with some well developed characters and some very involved subplots, which actually make the novel. That said, there is an undeniable potential in Ransom’s writing ability, which you can only hope will be developed upon in the future.

The novel lasts for a total of 407 pages.

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