Saturday, February 5, 2011

Staff Pick- The Green Man by Kingsley Amis

Maurice Allingham is at a crisis point in his life. The death of his first wife reacquaints him with his somewhat sullen teenage daughter. He is apparently indifferent to his current wife. His alcoholism and chronic womanizing is taking a toll on his body and soul. He appears to be outliving his charm. Allingham's father's death is the central event which brings all the people in his life together in the five days covered in The Green Man by Kingsley Amis.

The Green Man is a common symbol throughout many cultures usually depicted as a face surrounded by or comprised of leaves. Though now mostly considered decorative, some believe it once symbolized re-birth.

Allingham runs a public house called The Green Man. His doctor blames his hallucinations on his excess drinking, but Allingham is not convinced. He sees creatures and ghoulish apparitions that are visible to no one else. At first it is a red-haired woman and then a small bird. Generally indifferent to the people around him, his withdraws more once he learns of Thomas Underhill, a particularly nasty man who quite likely murdered several people.

This is a gothic tale which is both brooding and fanciful. We're never quite sure what is really happening. How much of this is real and how much is the product of Allingham's dissipated mind? Apparitions, accounts of long past brutal crimes and threats of more, midnight grave robbing and reluctantly performed exorcisms make this a chilling read. Like all works by Kingsley Amis, The Green Man is laced with wit, and elegant and sophisticated dialogue. It's a perfect story for a stormy winter night.

And some more chilling tales to warm you up throughout this long February:

The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James

"The Turn of the Screw tells the story of a young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans. Unsettled by a sense of intense evil in the house she soon becomes obsessed with the idea that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care. Meanwhile The Aspern Papers explores obsession of a more worldly kind, with its tale of a literary historian determined to get his hands on some letters written by a great poet. Such is his drive, he is quite prepared to use trickery and deception to achieve his aims..." - publisher

The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

"...Hill House is a foreboding structure of towers, buttresses, Gothic spires, gargoyles, strange angles, and rooms within rooms--a place "without kindness, never meant to be lived in...."Although Eleanor's initial reaction is to flee, the house has a mesmerizing effect, and she begins to feel a strange kind of bliss that entices her to stay. Eleanor is a magnet for the supernatural--she hears deathly wails, feels terrible chills, and sees ghostly apparitions. Once again she feels isolated and alone--neither Theo nor Luke attract so much eerie company. But the physical horror of Hill House is always subtle; more disturbing is the emotional torment Eleanor endures. Intense, literary, and harrowing..." - publisher

The House on Moon Lake
by Francesca Durant

"A prize-winning international bestseller, this gripping story by Francesca Duranti follows Fabrizio, an impoverished but aristocratic translator, on his obsessive quest to find a lost German novel -- The House on Moon Lake -- after he reads a reference to it in the book of a renowned literary critic. Fabrizio's quest and its solution transform his life as he searches for the reality behind the events in the book and its author. As Fabrizio is drawn into making up a story which slowly -- and intolerably -- becomes fact, he watches as his own creation begins to overpower him. By the time Fabrizio realizes the ramifications of the myth he has crafted, the love story of the original dissolves into a horror story of the present." - library catalogue.

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