Audiobook Review: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

harwood_cover.inddTitle: The Ghost Writer
Author: John Harwood
Genre: Gothic thriller
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook download from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
Audiobook reader: Simon Vance
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 27 minutes
First line: I first saw the photograph on a hot January afternoon in my mother’s bedroom.

Goodreads blurb: Viola Hatherley was a writer of ghost stories in the 1890s whose work lies forgotten until her great-grandson, as a young boy in Mawson, Australia, learns how to open the secret drawer in his mother’s room. There he finds a manuscript, and from the moment his mother catches him in the act, Gerard Freeman’s life is irrevocably changed. What is the invisible, ever-present threat from which his mother strives so obsessively to protect him? And why should stories written a century ago entwine themselves ever more closely around events in his own life? Gerard’s quest to unveil the mystery that shrouds his family, and his life, will lead him from Mawson to London, to a long-abandoned house and the terror of a ghost story come alive.

I finished listening to The Ghost Writer just a couple of hours ago, and I am still gritting my teeth in frustration. I should start at the beginning, though; I adored this book until the last section of the audiobook. The author’s technique of using stories within the story was entertaining, and so I was never disappointed when the narrative switched from Gerard’s point of view to one of the manuscripts from his grandmother. Each of them grew increasingly strange, adding to the overall gothic, eerie mood of the book.

I enjoyed Gerard’s story, as well, although I got a little frustrated at his willingness to wait years and years to meet his pen friend, his “invisible lover,” in person. That did stretch the bounds of believability just a little bit. But as the book wound close to the end, I found myself getting more and more weirded out, and was really looking forward to finding out the ending.

And, then, the various threads of the plot seemed to spiral out of control, leaving me partially confused, and wholly frustrated with the ending. I seem to remember that I had the same issue with the ending of his other book, The Asylum, so maybe endings are simply not his strong point.

One saving grace is that the audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance, whose voice is simply divine. I could listen to him read the classifieds. Unfortunately, even his velvety narration isn’t enough for me to completely recommend it, although maybe the ending will make more sense to some of you.

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6 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    OMG I did not know Simon narrated this one! I read it years and years ago in print, based on a review in EW. I don’t remember being frustrated with the ending, I remember it was twisty and a little confusing but overall liked the book. I got completely sucked into it. But it was before blogging so I have no notes on specifics. Now you make me want to read it (listen!) again.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – yeah, I love Simon. Still wasn’t too crazy about the ending, though.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    Oh how frustrating! I hate spending all that time with a book just to have it end that way.

  3. I am sorry you didn’t like this one more, Carrie. I really enjoyed it when I read it years ago. I can’t remember what I thought of the ending. I may have to look back through my reviews and see if I mentioned it. I’ve yet to read anything else by this author, but I have wanted to.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Wendy – I’m interested in checking out Harwood’s The Seance, as I read some reviews on Goodreads that said it was a better book.