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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in this extraordinary debut.

A novel set between the past and present with magical realist elements. Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War 2. After witnessing a shocking event she increasingly takes refuge in a self-constructed but magical imaginary world. Having been rejected by her
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 18th 2017 by Freight Books
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Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  259 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Always Pouting
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Goblin, now a librarian, grew up in London during WW II. Rejected by her mother and an outcast Goblin spent most of her time wandering around with her dog Devil rescuing other animals and amusing herself with her active imagination during her childhood. Now at the end of her life Goblin is being called back to the past, to answer questions about a picture she took of an animal massacre that took place in the middle of the war.

I didn't read any summaries before just picking up the book which mig
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ms. G. Bradfield aka Old Lady is a reader-in-residence at a library in Edinburgh. Her homeless friend Ben, a frequent library patron, could be found chewing books and sucking the ink off the pages, of course, in alphabetical, chew, spit! Ben presents the Old Lady with photos he has found in the library that record events occurring in World War ll London. Photos of bones, doll parts, a shrew head, evidence of animal carnage, and a camera have been unearthed. The photos suggest that th ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The best thing about GR is since joining most of the fabulous little known (to me anyway) books I’ve read I’ve found through the eloquent and enthusiastic reviews of friends here – Chasing the King of Hearts (Roger and Angela), Moon Tiger (Julie), All But My Life: A Memoir (Julie and Marialyce), The Way Back to Florence (Elyse), So Long, See You Tomorrow (Teresa and Carol), In the Land of Armadillos: Stories (Elyse). The latest is this one (Fran). Though I didn’t love it quite as much as the boo ...more
Sergio  Mori
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goblin might very well be my favourite protagonist since Don Quixote. I cared for her, I laughed and cried with her, I saw myself in her.

I've just finished reading her adventures and I want to start all over again: Bones, doll parts, a shrew head, a camera.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A unique life, uniquely told...

Goblin is an old lady now, working as a Reader in an Edinburgh library. But when the newspapers report that a strange pile of objects have been unearthed – bones, bits of a doll, a shrew head and a camera – she is thrust back into memories of her early life as a street urchin in wartime London. The camera still works and when the police develop the pictures they determine they could only have been taken by a child, and now they want Goblin to come in for an intervi
(Correct pagecount 294, not 272.)

Really liked this. Surreal and gritty at the same time. World War 2 and subsequent decades seen through the fey, somewhat warped mind of a very unusual child/person/being, with a present-day (well, 2011) storyline gradually putting together the pieces of what actually went on.
Reminded me a bit of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, I'm not quite sure why.

Content warnings: animal death, parental neglect + verbal abuse, occasional fairly graphic sex, suicide references
Cherry Bee
An outstanding work! This is the best book I've read this year. It's beautifully written and plotted and manages to raise important issues without ever losing Goblin's voice and the wonderful story.
This is everything a truly great novel should be, all at once heartbreaking and joyous and spellbinding and funny and sad and hopeful.
I love it and I love Goblin, I don't want to let her go!
Prepare to laugh and cry and fall in love.
K.J. Charles
Aug 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: 1940s
Litfic with time jumping, magical realist weirdness, circus found family and other such Angela Carter. Also abused child protagonist, animal abuse, homelessness, terrible secrets, queer issues, murder, and the Blitz. Eh. Piling human tragedy on to the page certainly makes an impact, but does leave the lingering question of how much of that impact is the author's words/work rather than the events depicted, and in the end this didn't really resonate with me as a human story rather than a series of ...more
Moray Teale
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Goblin is the only name by which we know narrator, a reader-in-residence at Edinburgh Central Library whose best friend is a homeless Scot whose life goal is to eat (yes, eat) literature. In alphabetical order, of course. But news of a grisly discovery in London which dates back to the early days of the Second World War and Goblin's own difficult East End childhood. The news hits Goblin hard and she falls ill, with only Ben and his dog Sam to care for her. When her strength returns it is only to ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Goblin is a sprawling coming-of-age story with a unique protagonist and a highly unpleasant atmosphere.

The novel starts in London, in 2011 and on the brink of WWII, as our spunky protagonist, the titular Goblin, runs wild with her two friends and Devil the dog, making up insane stories, constantly trying to hang out with her older brother David, and going deeper and deeper into her fantasies. And, in the times closer to the present, working in a library, hanging out with a homeless kid, and drin
Ollie Pound
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book of the year so far, this was spellbinding. I loved her adventures, her world and imagination. I cried, twice. The end came too soon, and I found myself back at the beginning and all so beautifully done. Truly a really special debut.
Stephanie Burton
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Goblin is a macabre novel of abandonment and loss, unreliable memory and the fragility of the human mind. It jumps netween its two time periods, confusingly at first, as the elderly incarnation of Goblin attempts to unravel and understand the events in her childhood that drove her to the edge of insanity. She is a compelling character, all the more so as I began to understand her past tragedies, and her inventiveness meant I could never quite
Oonagh Moon
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Goblin promised a lot with an outcast female protagonist and a bewitching premise about surviving harsh realities by the power of imagination. For me, however, a confusion of themes and an emphasis on 'telling' rather than 'showing' meant that, for me, the novel did not live up to its promise. I often felt that something was missing from the characterisation of Goblin which prevented me fully connecting with her - she remained a character on a page rather than coming to life as a person. I felt ...more
Laura Anderson
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Stunning book, and such a great debut. Dundas flits between times and settings with ease, painting a vivid, startling and occasionally harrowing picture of the life of Goblin, the titular hero. It's magical realism, but not, and brings to life people on the fringes - an unwanted child, a conscientious objector, circus performers, an elderly women, and a homeless man - in a beautiful, moving way.

This big old humanist and vegetarian (me!) particularly loved the examinations of animal rights and e
Andrea Stephenson
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A magical book, filled with eccentric and engaging characters. I've read nothing like this before. The author weaves an enchanting story, moving between Goblin as she is now and as she was during her many adventures, from being a child during the blitz in London, to being accepted by the circus. There is tragedy but there is also compassion and humour. Throughout it all is a deep reverence and love for the animals we share the world with. You will never forget Goblin or the world she shows us.
Dean Muscat
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Full review up at

A rarity for me, a contemporary novel that has become an instant favourite. I gobbled this book up and fell in love with the titular Goblin, a young girl growing up in WWII London who delves deeper and deeper into an imaginary world after she witnesses a traumatic event which she buries deep in her memory.

If you are a fan of Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, and the Guillermo del Toro film Pan's L
Ignacio Peña
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and brilliant debut. There are some very deliberate choices in the prose which I didn't quite gel with at times and I'm not in love with the frame narrative in the novel as a whole, but Goblin's story is just so distinctive and moving that none of that mattered in the end. An overall wonderful read.
Ross Maclean
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A beautifully structured phantasmagoria of creatures and underworlds, periods and locations, which we’re led through by an endlessly fascinating central character as she struggles with her personal history. At times it fondly reminded me of a variety of works as spectrum-traversing as Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Pan’s Labyrinth, while entirely remaining its own unique thing.
Helen McClory
A colourful adventure of a life lived through war and tumult and the circus and the beautiful haunted city of Venice (these sections my favourite of the book). One for fans of the macabre and the marginal, animals and 'freaks' and self-making stories.
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'You can't trust humans,' I said to the chickens. 'Apart from me, but I'm part-goblin so I don't count.'

This is such an assured, impressive novel. It's hard to believe this is a debut!

Goblin is a wonderful creation. She guides us through her life, from the streets of war-torn London to the romantic canals of Venice, always with at least one animal by her side. What I found so refreshing was that, despite the ongoing hardships the character faces, she is always opening her arms to people...well,
Joy Clark
This book has some of my favorite ingredients - a strong, unique, female protagonist; a hint of magical realism; and a list of oddball supporting characters. We meet Goblin as an old woman (or old lady, as she is affectionately called by her friend) and realize right away that there is something peculiar about her. Over a series of flashbacks, we learn about where Goblin came from, what made her so peculiar, and what the hell the Lizard King is. There is a circus, an exploration of bisexuality i ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading articles and previews about Goblin, I was smacked in the face with colossal ‘premise envy’. Oh, wow. Just… you read the blurb, or a summary, and there’s no possible way you’re avoiding reading this book. Hook, line, sinker.

The novel intertwines two weaving time threads, each telling the story of an elderly woman called Goblin. In the past, Goblin survived the Blitz, and was a witness to the Pet Massacre, a little-known but utterly devastating snippet of WW2 history. In the
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Goblin is a phenomenal book. There.

No, I know, I can’t just leave it there. So: Goblin has flown under the radar a bit. It turned up in places where such books do turn up – in reviews by interesting book bloggers, on the Not the Booker Prize longlist, the occasional mention in a year-end best-of roundup – but there was never, as far as I can tell, much mainstream coverage, apart from a Guardian book-of-the-day review and some pieces in the Glasgow Herald and the Scotsman. I’m here to tell you th
Graeme Strachan
Up front, I think it's important to mention, that I actually do know Ever Dundas. Certainly not well, but she is a friend of a friend, and someone I have spoken to in passing. That said, it has little bearing on my take on the book, but in the interests of disclosure...

I'd also like to say that despite giving it a mediocre score, and having a lot to say about it, I didn't dislike the book. It did engage me throughout, but constantly threw spanners into the machinery which stopped me enjoying it.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think calling this novel a blend between fantasy and reality might be a bit of a stretch. And the reason that I say this is because it misled me a great deal. From the premise, I thought that I would be reading about a girl who flits back and forth between different realms and it is up to the reader to discover which is the truth. The novel is better depicted as flitting between past and present, and there is always this feeling that something is being hidden from the reader and from the prota ...more
Matt Salisbury
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
So this isn't the kind of book I'd usually read, because of its "life story" structure. It does tell someone's entire life, through the blitz in World War II London, various adventures, through to 2011. Because of this, the book can be somewhat 'plot lite' and instead move at a breakneck pace from location to location.

However, enough criticism. For what it is, the book is a massive success. The main character, the titular Goblin, is a total oddball protagonist, and the book delves deeply into th
Nicola McLean
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found a link to this on an article I was reading about speciesism and was interested on the premise of the story being based around the massacre of family 'pets' at the start of WW2 which is something rarely talked about when we hear about the atrocities of war.

Honestly I nearly gave up on the first paragraph because it just seemed to be a collection of random words that made no sense and it really didn't make me want to read further. I did though and I'm so glad because actually it's a brilli
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: the author is a friend of a couple of old friends. That's how I found out about the book. Read a description they shared when it came out, and it sounded interesting -- that, plus the spectacularly gorgeous cover! It's not really the sort of thing I regularly read, although it touches on some aspects (the historical dimension, and the element of mystery); it's probably a bit more literary than my usual genres.

But what a great read! I found the writing and the characters really e
Juliet Wilson
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War Two. She witnesses a brutal and shocking event that pushes her into creating and living in her own imaginary world. She gathers a menagerie around her, made up of real animals (including Groo the cat who grooms all the other animals) and the very characterful Corporal Pig) and invented creatures (including Monsta, created from bits and pieces and brought to life with Goblin's blood).

Goblin wanders London, using the fact that she loo
P. E. Rempel
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A delightful read. A rare book. The novel follows the life of the extraordinary Goblin, from her childhood in war-torn WWII London to old age. Along the way the reader gets to know a cast of colorful and endearing characters (human and animal) and witnesses a series of both fascinating and heartrending scenarios. At the heart of the story, though, is Goblin's missing brother and a painful secret she's been hiding for decades. The book is a fast read, it bursts with emotion and life which buoys t ...more
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Ever Dundas is a writer specialising in the weird and macabre. She writes literary fiction, horror and sci-fi. Her first novel Goblin, about an outcast girl growing up in London during World War II, won the Saltire First Book Award 2017. She has recently finished her second novel, HellSans, a sci-fi thriller.

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