The Naremore family has its problems. Dad Steve’s business is thriving but he is driven and controlling; Mum Kirsty’s projects never quite get off the ground and her latest business venture has turned into a money sink; Teenage daughter Jordan is sullen, prone to self-harm and eating disorders and has a no-good boyfriend; and little Tim is obsessive and barely engaged in real life.
Then they find The Hollow, with its magical atmosphere and friendly ghosts and all their problems melt away. Except that they don’t. The individuals’ insidious faults express themselves in new and more subtle ways, the rifts grow ever wider and before long The Hollow is a battle zone in which reality is optional. And it gets really weird.
This is almost a traditional ghost story, but like the best new art it subverts the genre clichés. The gentle beginning, the gradual build of tension and the final resolution are expertly paced and handled. But the main reason it all works so well is that Newman has created four real people. The family each have their own quirks, habits, speech and thought ticks that make them completely believable. The family dynamic is ultimately more important than any ghosts. The individual responses to the events in the book are built on personalities so well established that even the most extreme reactions come across as real.
There is a lot of head-hopping, which I found confusing at first but it is necessary to the structure of the book: seeing the same scene from several viewpoints adds to our understanding and frustration.
This is a very entertaining and rather askew take on a classic form, and definitely worth your time.