This is a stunning, haunting memoir blended with nature writing and literary criticism. One of the best elements is the inclusion of many photographs – at least one every few pages – some of them taken by the author. These really enhance the atmosphere of the book.
Each chapter explores a different location in the British Isles and has an intriguing, evocative title, such as ‘Dark Waters’, ‘Goblin City’ and ‘Lonelier Than Ruin’. The author travels to places which have resonance for him personally and which are also linked to his taste in literature (mainly traditional ghost stories and folk horror). Writers featured include M R James, L P Hartley, William Hope Hodgson, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, W G Sebald and Arthur Machen. 1970s TV and film – particularly adaptations of books – is also an important theme. Woven into Parnell’s explorations is a meditation on grief. There are hints of family tragedies which he slowly introduces into the text. I almost didn’t want to read on, as I knew there was bereavement ahead. I think it’s a very sophisticated book and beautifully written. The only criticism I have is that the parts which are more like literary essays are not so gripping when you haven’t read the texts or seen the films. In any case, reading synopses is not interesting and I think these could have been reduced.
A unique book about haunted locations and literature, by an author who is himself haunted by the past.
First published in 2019.
5 thoughts on “Review of ‘Ghostland’ by Edward Parnell”
Really good review! I like how you express your critique so it doesn’t disrespect the author in any way. Great stuff! 👍🏻
Thanks very much! 🙂
I was so curious about this one after seeing it written up briefly elsewhere! Good to know you enjoyed it so much, I need to find a copy 🙂
I do recommend it! If you are curious about the authors / horror themes then it will certainly be worth reading but it’s interesting anyway.
I think that’s why I was hesitating, because I had read the list of authors referenced and although I vaguely knew a few of them, I’m not familiar with the majority. So I wondered if too much of the book would just be over my head, but I like the concept of it enough to give it a try, I think!