So during October, I had this completely unoriginal thought to read creepy books and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay had been on my TBR pile for a very long time. It took me absolutely ages to get through this book and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was on a very tight blog schedule, I think I would have DNF’d it.
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.
I was so excited to read this! I’m a huge wuss and I’m kinda scared to read The Exorcist or even watch the film so I figured this was close enough.
This book was a complete drag for me. You wouldn’t think that it would be considering that it’s about exorcism but I just couldn’t get into it. The start of the book was really good, Tremblay laid out the foundations of the story and it was interesting at first to read from the point of the view of the child and when she’s an adult.
However, the writing style soon got tiring. It jumped around a lot; there were the chapters where we read from the perspective of when Merry was a child, the perspective of when Merry is an adult, and then we have chapters that are styled as blog posts… I didn’t feel like the blog posts added anything to the story. It felt messy.
I have very strong feelings about this book. When I finished it, I felt a mixture of disappointment and anger. I was angry because this book is pretty much exactly like Shirley Jackson’s, We Have Always Lived in this Castle. It’s one of my favourite books ever and to see it copied and ripped off just made me angry. So I’m very confused as what this book actually is. Is it a retelling of Jackson’s much-loved novel? Or did Tremblay simply copy the book? After reading up on Tremblay, I learned that he is a juror for the Shirley Jackson awards.Which confuses me even more.
If I didn’t know the story of We Have Always Lived in this Castle, then I think I would have enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts a little bit more, but because of the writing style, I can’t give this book a higher rating. After the beginning of the book, the middle section was very slow paced which made it hard for me to get into, and it was only until the end that everything began to gain pace again and secrets were revealed.
This whole story – if anything – was just sad because it showed how mental health can get mixed up with being ‘possessed’ and it’s sad that these misdiagnoses happen all of the time.
I’m glad I’ve finally read it because it means that it’s another book off of my TBR pile, but I don’t think I’ll be in any rush to read it again in the future.