Best reads in 2015

I read a lot last year. Much of it was mediocre, some of it bad, and a few books were shiny, glittering gems.

These are the jewels:

wylding hall

Wylding Hall by Elisabeth Hand

This is my no. 1 read last year, it still haunts me months after I finished – in a good way.

In the free-spirited 70’s a folk band is sent by their manager to Wylding Hall to work on their new album. During their stay they encounter a number of peculiar phenomenons and situations, culminating in the unexplained disappearance of their lead singer, the enigmatic Julian Blake. The story is told through a series of interviews with the remaining band members and acquaintances almost forty years later.

I fell head over heels for the unexplained mystery at the heart of the novel and the fascinating bits of folklore and legends. The ending sent chills down my spine.

Add to that great characters and beautiful writing, and it’s a winner.

Wrens are spooky birds!

Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This girl-possession story is not like any other. Though it starts out in a well-known fashion, with fourteen-year old Marjory showing all the signs of a classic possession, it slowly turns into something else.

Told through Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry’s, perspective, it’s a story about a family coming apart, about hidden demons within – and the curse of the public eye.

I loved both girls, but perhaps Merry the most. She seemed real to me – reminded me a bit about what it was like being a child. I also liked the way Marjorie turned into the voice of reason in the midst of the onslaught of Catholic priests, hysterical relatives and documentary film makers.

I also thoroughly enjoyed that little itch of doubt the book left me with – even after everything was done and settled…

A nice and twisty read indeed…


Girl on the train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Yes, me too… How can one not be charmed by one so utterly human protagonist?  I loved the twists and turns, of course – but mostly I loved Rachel’s inability to deal with her own life, her struggles and reasoning – and her effort to do good in the midst of all her misery.

Sometimes reading about her almost physically hurt – but for someone who has lived a while, much of her struggles felt all too real. You’re not always in control. Sometimes you fuck up – and shit happens.

As it does in this book. Over and over…

There is some redemption in there too – that I like the most.


Sister Death

Little Sister Death by William Gay

This novel was published post mortem (2015), and has a rough, unfinished feel to it, especially near the end – doesn’t make it less of a fascinating read though.

This one too, starts out in known territory, with a writer with writer’s block who brings his whole family out to a remote, haunted farm to get inspired. What he’s trying to get inspired by is the legend of the Bell Witch – and of course he succeeds, though not in the way that he wanted.

The whole atmosphere at the Beale farm is unfriendly and ominous. Things goes bump in the night and our hero sees things in the forest. The story jumps between the early 1800’s and the 1980’s and weaves a fascinating tapestry of madness, folktales and ‘evil that lurks’.

What makes the book stand out, though, is the writing: brilliant and apologetically original.  Even in this unkempt state, it ranks among the best.


Old gold that I hadn’t read before:


The Elementals by Michael McDowell

This book, originally published in 1981, offers a nice spin on the old haunted house with a dash of Southern Gothic and some 70’s surreal.

Beldame, the Savage family’s remote summer place, consist of three identical houses, of which one is uninhabitable due to all the sand that has crept in and devoured the building from the inside. The house. of course, quickly becomes fourteen-year old India’s focus of attention.

What makes this book is not the writing (good) or the characters (lovely flawed) as much as the sense otherworldliness that penetrates the novel: it’s always humid and hot, Beldame is severed from the mianline at high tide – and there’s the looming sense of a family curse, something unknown in the shadows…

A hauntingly eerie read.


Burnt offerings

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

Yet another ‘house with a soul’ – I seem to have read a lot of these in 2015.

This classic novel from 1973 is about a family who is offered to rent an old mansion in the country over summer for a spectacularly small amount of money. The only catch is the elderly woman upstairs that the owners leaves behind. She is low maintenance though, just a few meals a day, left by her door – she never leaves her room…

As summer moves on things are getting weird, though. The family subtly changes, and so does the house around them…

A nice and, at times, intense read about a hungry house and its summer guests.


Bring on 2016…


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