Raven Reviews – third edition

Another instalment of reviews small enough to be written on a tiny scroll and carried on a raven’s leg.

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

I bought this as I was in a new Waterstones that’s just opened in Aberdeen and I’d seen one book I wanted and it was buy-one-get-one-half-price. This is a horror-ish novel set in the eighties. I hoped it would be like a spooky version of ‘This is England’. Loads of good reviews on the back.  I did finish it, but it was only two weeks ago and I can barely remember a thing about it, so it can’t have been really my thing.

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The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell.

If you like The Woman In Black you will like this book. The cover backs this up as Susan Hill, the author of The Woman In Black, declares the book ‘terrific’. Elsie is a young, pregnant widow being tormented by creepy ‘silent companions’, life-like freestanding painted boards (link to Pinterest page of the bloody weird things). It is atmospheric, there’s damp pile of a house with a sealed garret, whispers of witches, a match factory and spooky antiques.

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It moves between the 1860s and a diary from 1635, as well as some later sections in a psychiatric hospital.  I found it quite fun as I am often scared of antiques. My mother was always picking up weird things at auction, such as creepy portraits of monks, and clocks that did their own thing chiming like they were possessed in the middle of the night. Her sister, my aunt, is as bad, and recently sent me this doll in the post as she found it in my nan’s loft some years ago, and thought I could now give her a home. And I have, in a box under the bed. I believe her hand is like that was as she was left too close to the fire and the painted papier mâché melted a bit. And whoever knitted her that top just made her look like a balding man in a string vest. Oi! Come back with my wheelie bin you thieving wee gits!

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Shaun Bythell is a bit of a bitch, which is a good thing. No one wants to read about punctual staff and delightful customers. But, Shaun manages to be likeable as he includes just enough caring observations, as well as casts an honest eye over himself, and frequently demonstrates how no one around him gives a damn what he thinks, anyway. I loved the descriptions of the book shop, and the houses he visits on buying trips (especially one where he received the blame for a ferocious old-lady-fart), and especially his Morrisons-skip-diving, hippy-dressing, hedgerow-foraging staff member Nicky who does exactly what she wants all day. Sadly in the epilogue it says Nicky has “found another job closer to her hovel, and now works in the Keystore in Glenluce selling lottery tickets, cigarettes and cheap cider. ” which gives you an idea of the tone.

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The feathery raven thumbs-up.

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