It’s almost October, and you know what that means…HALLOWEEN!! In honor of one of my favorite decorating holidays, here’s a post on the topic of scary books. What makes them scary? Do they have to contain ghosts or witches? Do they have to be gory or gruesome, or can they just be suspenseful and thrilling? I have recently discovered the author Jennifer McMahon. Let me tell you, that woman knows scary. I just finished her latest two novels, The Winter People and The Night Sister. Those books were dark and creepy. There was some descriptive gore in a few moments but to be honest it was the unknown that scared the pants off of me more than anything. Did you ever watch Alfred Hitchcock movies growing up? I mention these because one of the characters in The Night Sister is quite obsessed with his movies and he no doubt inspired the macabre subject matter in McMahon’s books. There was never any real gore in Hitchcock’s films. His most controversial film, Psycho, about the murder of a young woman in the shower of the famed Bates Motel frightened a whole generation of women. My father told me there was an epidemic of housewives who feared to shower while at home by themselves, preferring to wait for the security of their husbands to return from work. This is what scary is all about. Things that go bump in the night, the shadows on the walls, the creepy child’s voice singing some beloved lullaby. These are all elements of a true horror book. I remember watching Jaws as a kid and it was never the image of the shark itself that scared me, but rather the foreboding music that has become an icon of Hollywood. There is a moment in one of the McMahon books where a little girl, who has been brought back from the dead and is scratching on the closet door from the inside trying to get out. I have a cat. And she likes to scratch at my bedroom door. Let me tell you, that story did more to me at one o’clock in the morning with my cat scratching at my door than any gory horror film ever did! So for me, it is the unknown elements, the lingering questions, the mystery surrounding a story, and the general creepy feeling I get from a book that makes me frightened. So pick up a good scary story this October. Read a ghost story or a book about a haunted house. Scare the pants off yourself! Trust me, it’s a right good time!
This was a fantastic book! I loved the concept of writing a love story about Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild but I loved even better the execution of such a story. I am completely unfamiliar with early 19th century history, the Napoleonic wars, and even (I’m ashamed to say) the creation of the Grimm fairy tales. I knew some things and I knew of the speculation surrounding the Grimm Brothers but this book was written so well that whether the author knew what she was talking about or not, she made is realistic enough that I believed her! In her afterword I discovered that she in fact did do her research. Kate Forsyth not only researched the time period in which she was writing but also into the personal diaries or Dortchen and Wilhelm as well as studies of abuse victims in order to make her story even more believable. This book invoked a lot of raw emotions, and at times I wanted to cry and scream. But that is what good writing is all about. (This next part may be considered spoilers for some, but it’s history so it has already happened and should not surprise anyone) I absolutely adored how Forsyth went about writing her own fairy tale. It is a cliché to say that the couple had a happy ending but the fact that they did made all the work Wilhelm and Jakob put into the stories worthwhile. They wanted to keep the old tales alive and in doing so they created a wholly new and wonderful story of their own. This was a deeply moving and beautifully written book. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or anything to do with Grimms fairy tales.