Wednesday, July 12, 2006

book 26: Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood

I bought Great Granny Webster because I liked the way the book tickled my eye. I liked its size and design. The story came second this time. Lucky for me, the story kicked ass.

A very British gothic, Great Granny Webster is chock full of sinister characters and places, the main eeriness being provided by the title character and her freezing, foreboding house in Hove, near Brighton in England. I was in Brighton once in March and down by the sea, it looked like Hell itself was spilling out from a tear in the nasty grey sky and whipping through the abandoned piers that make for the seashore scenery.

Great Granny Webster is the story of a woman who tries to understand her family’s ghosts, from the haunting character of her bitter, proud great-grandmother, to her mad grandmother, to the mystery of her long-dead father, whose sister is as light as air as well as being quite suicidal. The main character’s childhood stay with GGW is the circumstance where Blackwood really exercises her gift for restraint and forcing the reader to see what is straining just beyond the edges of her words.

In fact, a stormy, sultry night like this is the perfect time to dip into a ooky family tale, especially on that has such a great introduction that points out what plot devices and characters may have very well been based on life. Blackwood’s life itself is worth looking into, so I my find myself back in the stacks, looking for a bio.

GGW is one of my beloved nyrb books and every time I hit the Strand or other fine, fine booksellers, I am always looking for another to add to my collection.

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