It seems like I’m kicking off the year doing the things I don’t usually do: more book reviews? It just so happens that I’ve blasted through three books in a row over the holidays that were so outstanding that I can’t pass up a mention. The following is a book review of Wild Fell by Michael Rowe: a ghost story with gothic horror leanings.
It’s the sort of book that I would throw my panties at with wild, screaming fangirl abandon if I could: it’s dark, it’s a little twisted, it plays with multiple narratives that all weave together in one neat little knot, and it opens with sex and death and moths.
If you’re new here, let me elaborate: I’ve been reading and writing horror since I was in my pre-teens. It’s in my blood. I’ve arrived at a point where I’m less phased by blood and guts and gore than I am the things rooted in some real life experience that have turned me phobic. Flying insects are way up on top of the list. I have zero explanation for why this is, but let me be very explicit in this: bees? Hornets? Wasps? Check check check. Butterflies? Check.
I went so far as to try and get over the fear of butterflies by going to an exhibit at the Montreal Biodome where they let the beastly things fly around freely around the crowds. They land on you. I made it through, but I was not pleased. Also, the exhibit didn’t damn well cure me either.
But moths? MOTHS?!
Insert opening prelude where two teenagers from back in the nineteen sixties are out playing smoochy smoochy and about to get down to business near an abandoned mansion with a sordid history that the locals typically avoid that sits off the shore of a place called Devil’s Lake. True to trope, they do the deed. The next thing you know, the girl wakes up alone and naked in the dark, and while fumbling for her clothing sees her boyfriend half-submerged in the water, following some unseen beckoning that draws him closer to the abandoned mansion on the other side of the water.
She calls after him, and when he doesn’t respond, she wades into the lake after him.
Cue swarm of fluttering insects that blanket her. That get into her hair. That weigh down her skin. That flutter into. Her. Throat.
NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE. NOPE.
Let me give you a hint:
I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately when it comes to haunted houses. There’s an overwhelming selection on amazon, and while I’ve had Wild Fell on my wishlist for some time, I really need to kick myself in the ass for dilly dallying on the read. It comes out of a dark fiction publishing house based out of Ontario called ChiZine Publications: I’ve been stalking them for some time, partially because they’re Canadian, and partially because they output a lot of horror and weird fiction titles that really get me excited. Pants weeing excited.
Book Post-Mortem: Wild Fell by Michale Rowe
Wild Fell spans a few generations, and follows the life of Jameson from childhood into adulthood and the purchase of a long-neglected summer property off Devil’s Lake in Alvina, Ontario. The house dates back roughly a century; the property belonging to a family with its own secrets and sordid dealings.
From childhood, we follow a young boy who’s been bullied; who’s found a temporary solace in his imaginary friend who lives in his mirror. Not everything is as it seems, however, and the reflections of the adult Jameson looking back on his younger self is often distorted with time and forgetting.
There are lots of things buried both in memory, and in the local cemetery, it seems.
Creepy, disorienting, and vividly grotesque in places, the characters that inhabit this book are a collection of people whose despair and desperation is palpable.
I forgot often I was reading a work of fiction, and though I was compelled to finish the book, it heft the sort of darkness found in the human spirit that I was happy to be done with too. Don’t get me wrong: that’s the mark of an amazing read for me.
It is, however, pitch black in both content and the telling.
A+ as far as horror goes.
Wild Fell in Summary:Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
Published by ChiZine Publications on December 15th 2013
Check it out: Goodreads
The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of Alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light. Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life - or even longer. And now, at long last, it has found him!Buy on Amazon