In brief: It’s 1973 England and Rebecca is madly in love with Dave. But a move to a tiny village changes not just their romance, but also brings out a number of ghosts. Why can Rebecca see them and what is their plan?
The good: Quirky and different – it’s not often you have Jane Eyre, David Cassidy and John Keats sharing page time in one book.
The not-so-good: A little confused to what the major point was of this book (but still fun)
Why I chose it: Thank you to Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for the ARC.
Pages: 362 (ARC)
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
My rating: 7 out of 10
The Word Ghost is a difficult book to categorise – it’s not quite young adult, it’s not quite straight fiction and it’s not paranormal. Rather, it combines all of these elements to make a book that is unique, sprinkled with poetry throughout. (Christine Paice is also a poet). It has funny moments, sad moments and a few baffling moments. I’m still not too certain as to what the overall message is of this book, but I’ll happily take it as a coming of age book in England in the 1970s.
The book starts out as Rebecca (or Abraham/Abes as she likes to be known) falls madly, crazily in love with Dave. It’s all about Dave. Dave is sprinkled throughout the text, in every thought of Rebecca’s to show how devoted she is to him. This could be the Number 1 Romance of All Time, if it wasn’t for his disapproving mother and an unexpected return home to find the couple in a compromising position. It’s then that Rebecca’s father announces they are all moving to the tiny village of Brightley. Naturally, Rebecca doesn’t want to leave Dave, but after an ill-timed journey to see him and an even more humiliating afternoon tea, she’s forced to accept her life is in Brightley.
Weird things are happening in Brightley. There’s Flora, an elderly lady who knows a little too much and then there’s Algernon. Except that Algernon’s a ghost, the cousin of John Keats. Why is he back? Why is his (ghost) sister determined to extract Gothic-style revenge? What does he have to teach Rebecca?
I loved the setting of this book – you can practically feel the sunshine of that English summer with its bell bottoms and David Cassidy. Likewise, there’s a Gothic undertone to the village of Brightley, where ghosts come out to play, but it’s not sinister. Rebecca’s easy acceptance of the ghosts definitely helps, as does the friendly nature of Algernon. The family dynamics between Rebecca and her two sisters is also brilliantly done – the bickering, sniping and love felt very true. However, the relationship between Rebecca and Alex seemed quite awkward – he’s 37, she’s 15. He seemed a bit sleazy and creepy (not to mention he was in a relationship) and the whole thing didn’t work for me. He’s old enough to know better and surely Rebecca’s parents could have intervened? (Or Algernon?) Alex wasn’t a likeable character for me – he ran hot and cold, not the man to seduce the heroine. I didn’t know enough about him for him to redeem himself as worthy of Rebecca.
I did enjoy all the references to Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. I loved how Rebecca had one sided discussions with Jane Eyre, it seemed to fit with her nature and probably helped with her seeing and interacting with the ghosts.
It’s an interesting book, do read it if you’re after something that doesn’t fit the conventional novel mould.