Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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Synopsis:

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.


Review: 

I read this novel as my BookBum Club book for March! Check out this page to find out more about my very own Book Club!

Please excuse the state of this review, it’s a little all over the place! I really enjoyed this book but I’m finding it difficult to explain why.

I went into this book with no expectations – which is exactly how I like to go into books! I had had it on my shelf for a long, long time, but by the time I picked it up I had completely forgotten what the story was about (I didn’t reread the synopsis) and I avoided all reviews so I didn’t form any pre-reading opinions. I’m really glad that I went into this book that way as I think I would have been disappointed otherwise…

This is marketed as a horror novel but I don’t really think that it is. If you want to read this one for some scares, you will be let down. I would recommend this more as a psychological drama. Parts of this novel definitely did give me the creeps, mainly some of the smaller, earlier events with Marjorie, but overall it was far more intense and melancholy than it was scary.

Unlike other reviewers, I found the layout of this one a bit annoying. It changes how the story’s told a couple of times. We learn about the events of Marjorie’s ‘possession’ through a young Merry, who’s there at the time of the events, through a blogger reviewing the TV show based around the family, and the current day Merry, talking to a journalist / non-fiction writer. I would have preferred the story just to be told from young Merry’s perspective, but I understand how the other perspectives were used to create new ideas and unfold the plot.

Character-wise, this was incredible. You get to know Merry and her family so well throughout the novel that by the end, you feel like you’re part of their troubled family.

As for the story, like mentioned before, I definitely think this was more psychological drama than it was horror. There are scary aspects to the story, but at the end of the day, this book focuses a lot more on the effects of mental health, and for that reason, it’s actually quite a sad story. The idea that society would exploit a young ill girl to create a horror TV show is definitely not too far off where ‘entertainment’ is going, which is scarier than anything else, really!

Then we come to the ending… and what a mind-bender it is! It’s one of those twists where you think ‘wait, what does this mean?’ – it creates a doubt in your mind about everything you’ve just read! Perfect ending for a book club discussion!

Overall, I loved this book! I thought it was really clever and I will definitely be reading more stuff by Tremblay in the future! I already have Disappearance at Devil’s Rock on my shelves at home!

*Buy it here: Amazon UK | Book Depository | Wordery

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13 thoughts on “Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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