Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Confidential

We're under two feet of snow here in the city of New York: a day for curling up in bed with hot chocolate and a good book. So with that in mind, herewith I offer you a book review of Ghost Town, by Patrick McGrath.

Ghost Town is a collection of three novellas; all are about Manhattan (below 23rd Street), all are told by a first-person narrator who is not the protagonist, and all three have ghosts. They share a dark moodiness that forms a thread through all of the stories. The first novella, "The Gibbet," is the best, I think. The narrator tells the story of his childhood during the revolutionary period in New York, and how his mother was killed as a traitor by the British. It's raw, visceral, with murky smells of death and rot. The man feels responsible for her death, and as he tells the story, he waits for his own death to claim him during the 1832 cholera epidemic. "Julius" tells the tragic decline of the wealthy Van Horn family by the patriarch's denial of Julius's love, and "Ground Zero" tells of a psychiatrist's struggle with ideas of good and evil as her patient falls for a woman in the days after 9/11.

I give it 4.7 out of 5 - the writing is so mournful, so full of buried terror of the unknown, so intimate - like it's whispering in your ear.


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