Thursday 10 October 2013

A Scaredy Cat's Book Review: The Uninvited

Between me and you, I really don't like writing book reviews. I used to have to do them in school and it put me off reading. The fact I'm writing about The Uninvited should be proof enough of its brilliance.
Up until now I didn't think books had the same power as films for planting zombies in your bathroom and ghosts under your kitchen sink. Beetlejuice, The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Skeleton Key, Julia's Eyes (Los Ojos de Julia) - the few scary films I've dared watch really got under my skin.

Some of them, such as Beetlejuice, have since morphed into comedies, which is a fat lot of help to my younger self who once cowered in bed, too frightened to go to the toilet.
It's often the music in films that manipulate our emotions. I remember abruptly turning the sound off while watching this horror film with some green lady in a bath. Suddenly it was just a silly green lady in the bath, not scary at all. Well my copy of The Uninvited arrived without a sound track and achieved what I thought only films were capable of.
Here's the blurb:
A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong.
When anthropologist Hesketh Lock travels to Taiwan to investigate sabotage in the timber industry, he has no reason to connect the events there with the incidents back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son. That is, until shocking events in Taiwan and a global epidemic of child violence forces him to reassess his life, his career and his role as a father. Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.
It's a chilling read with a character at its centre that you love for being so direct. Okay so he's direct because he has Aspergers and you wouldn't like his directness if you'd just slept with him, but he makes for a trusty narrator. As for creepy children and unexplained madness, it gets me trembling under my blanket every time.
The Uninvited is expertly paced and you feel compelled to keep reading because you need the answers as much as super rational Hesketh. Whatsmore it doesn't fall apart at the end like so many other 'nearly thrilling' books do.
I read The Uninvited at night in a very empty house, wind whistling outside and neighbours oddly quiet. After putting it down I considered sleeping with the lights on, and when I turned them off feeling foolish, I fully expected something to grab my ankle.
Your experience might be less scary if you read it in daylight and with someone at your side. Preferably not a child acting strangely or an adult who believes in evil spirits.  
For proper book reviews, visit Isabel Costello's On The Literary Sofa. I actually won this book through a competition she was running on Twitter so it's worth following her @IsabelCostello
For more about author Liz Jensen, visit her website and find her on on Twitter @LizJensenWriter 

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