Review of ‘The Exorcist’ by William Peter Blatty

‘The most terrifying novel ever written’ did not scare me but I found it a very disturbing and gripping read. Maybe a Catholic reader or anyone brought up to believe that the devil exists would find this book more frightening. The book is of course overshadowed by the famous and notorious film adaptation. I assume that most people who read it today are doing so because they are curious after seeing the film. You can read my ‘film of the book’ post here.

The Exorcist is centred on a case of possible demonic possession in Georgetown. 12-year-old Regan becomes ill and then her behaviour gets weirder and more repulsive until she has to be tied down and tranquillised, but even then she is able to wreak violence on herself and others. Her mother, the actress Chris MacNeil, is increasingly devastated as she sees her daughter become unrecognisable. She seeks help from medical professionals. Meanwhile, a Jesuit priest, Father Karras, is grieving for his mother and is doubting his faith. Gradually the story brings Father Karras into contact with the MacNeils…

There are a lot of things going on this book and it will certainly make you think. Much of the story is given to investigating what could medically be wrong with Regan and then once the idea takes hold that she might be possessed (or thinks she is), the focus is on collecting enough proof for Father Karras’s superiors to permit an exorcism to take place. It’s not a spoiler to say there’s an exorcism (I mean the clue is in the title) but the rites only occupy a small section at the end of the book. There’s an unhurried build-up and it’s not the kind of book where you expect horror on every page.

This book has the filthiest language I’ve ever encountered in fiction and there are some truly disturbing scenes. I certainly won’t forget it. Beyond the grossness, however, are interesting explorations of faith, psychiatry and the nature of evil.

Recommended if you’re curious about this novel and are not put off by the obscene content.

First published in 1971. This is the 40th anniversary edition published in 2011 with revisions by the author.

8 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Exorcist’ by William Peter Blatty”

    1. I would definitely recommend reading the book if you find the film interesting, just be prepared to be even more shocked!

  1. I haven’t really read that much horror books. Hell, now that I think about it, I wonder if I have read any at all! God, thats terrible! 😱😱🤣🤣🤣 But, I am still intrigued by how the whole exorcism and the demonic possession and all must have been portrayed and worded in the book. I havent watched the movie either but I have to admit, the cover is REALLYYY creepy!! 😱😱😱

    I enjoyed reading this review, Ford! ❤️❤️❤️

    1. You haven’t read any horror? Well actually I understand that, as it’s not for everyone. Interestingly a lot of the book is about ruling out medical conditions and other reasons for the girl acting like she’s possessed.
      If you were interested, it’s best to watch the movie first I think, as the book is more extreme than that 😉
      Thanks for your comment ♥

      1. Ohh?! Okay then, I will try to watch the movie first…☺️☺️❤️ Thank you soo much for the suggestion, Ford!

        You are MOST welcome! ❤️❤️

    1. I would recommend the book in that case, just be aware of the very graphic details! I will do a post on the film in the next few months.

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