Firstly, I’d like to thank Sonya Alford and David John Griffin for this book, which I won in a competition on Sonya’s blog https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com . The book design is beautiful, and one of the nicest I’ve seen in a while (you can’t really tell from the photo but the letters are all embossed and the insects appear nearly holographic).
The shuttered windows became blinkered, sorrowful eyes, the main canopy over its entrance a wet nose and the outer door that gaped open acquired two rows of fine, pointed teeth.
Ever since Eleanor and William lost their first child, who was to be named Alastair, Eleanor has longed for him. She calls his name, pretending he exists, and sees things which aren’t real. Or are they?
She becomes so disturbed by her visions that she ends up in a sanatorium, only being allowed out once she recants them. However, just because she’s recanted them doesn’t mean she doesn’t still see them. While Eleanor’s been away, William’s business has failed. He’s had to sell their house and move in with his aging, manipulative, insect-collecting father. Now that Eleanor’s returned, everyone must do their best to adapt to their changed family circumstances. The big question is, how they’ll manage to do so.
The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a magical realist story set in an alternate reality, nineteenth century English village. It’s told in two parts, with alternating third person viewpoints. As is usual with the genre, at times it’s hard to tell what’s really happening and what’s only in the minds of the characters. Griffin manages to separate them out nicely, thereby clarifying events for the reader, without becoming mired down in the details or losing the magical elements of the story.
Griffin’s prose is lucid and striking in this atmospheric, creepy and ultimately gothic tale dealing with issues of identity, disassociation, schizophrenia and ghosts. But although his novel’s themes may be heavy, Griffin underlies them with a sense of humour. One of my favourite things about this novel were the names of his characters. For example there is Dr. Snippet, the Reverend and Mrs. Musty, Mr. Fishcake and Mrs. Goodwithin, amongst others. His place names were equally clever and amusing, with The Bulldog Fish Tavern being easily my favourite.
If you enjoy gothic tales, psychology and/or magical realism I’d recommend this novel.
To learn more about the author, visit his website: http://www.davidjohngriffin.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @MagicalRealized