I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Probably because I enjoyed discussing aspects of the book in a group setting more than I enjoyed the actual book.
So what sort of book is it?
Well it might be a ghost story. It may have some horror elements. It might be factual - or it might just be true... or both or neither. Do I sound like a crazy person? That's because this book is told in the first person by someone who considers themselves insane - though her psychiatrist doesn't like using that word. In fact the whole book could be considered part of India Morgan Phelp's or Imp's therapy. She then proceeds to tell her story of how she is haunted by a painting. Or it might be her telling of her descent into the abyss of madness. Either way the reader is transported into the mind of a "crazy" person who recounts the events of her haunting in non linear fashion.
Part of the story is how she met a woman named Eva Canning - but she has two different versions of her first encounter with Eva - One that takes place in July and one in November - both accounts she insist are true. And away we go down the rabbit hole. We also get a couple of short stories that Imp recounts writing - one about a mermaid and one about a wolf or werewolf - but both these stories flow into her "reality" and become part of her haunting. It's then up to the reader to try and disassemble the story to try and decide if any part of it is true or if none of it is true or whatever. In that regard it's a little like Among Others - even though unlike this book I didn't finish that story.
One of the things I could relate to personally in the story was how mental illness affects the lives of family and friends who have to watch the person they love breaking down. The anger, the frustration, the lack of understanding, the feeling of helplessness the grieving. I have a sister who went through a breakdown in her teens and things were pretty intense for a while.
The thing I had trouble relating to was the gender issues of Imp's transgender lover, Abelyn. It's just too foreign to my own way of thinking and a little uncomfortable to read - but I could relate to Abelyn's response to Imp's mental illness and while it's easy to judge some of Abelyn's reactions and decisions in that regard...I get it.
Though the surreal experience and mystery of the book appealed to me initially, the novelty wore off. I found myself in a place where I trusted nothing in the narrative nor believed that this would change and as such found myself becoming disinterested in the story. So I probably wasn't paying attention as much as I should have been. The end does have a twist that caused me to question my previous assumptions of the story but I hadn't been paying enough attention to get the full impact. Perhaps I would benefit from a reread.
I listened to this on Audible and the narrator Suzy Jackson was a good choice for the audio I think. Very easy to listen to.
I cannot recommend this work. A tedious and plodding story that failed to catch my interest, told in a monotonous tone. Not one for a long drive, or even a short one on a straight road.
I found this to be a challenging story to follow. I enjoyed the narration immensely but needed to relax into the non linear structure. The one thing I can recommend when listening to this is just to go with it. Don't try to figure out what is real, what is truth or what is fact; just follow IMP on her journey.
It was boring.
Nothing, it wasn't her fault it was a bad book.
No, but it wasn't the narrator
All of them
The beginning of the story was very interesting, but I felt it died in the middle and just got weird and didn't go anywhere. Waste of time!
i like to read. i like to listen.
i really wanted to love this book. i set myself up to rave about it....but i just can't. based on all the reviews i have read (here, on goodreads and otherwise), this book seemed to have all the makings of a story i would love. fantasy, female narrator, gothic horror and the promise of an incredibly talented author.
Caitlin Kiernan is a talented author. this much is true. there are words and paragraphs and portions of this novel that are so beautifully written they begged to be framed as art. but then there were parts that were so...so...hmmm.
let me try to explain.
Imp could be an interesting narrator, but the fact that you never quite know (because of her schizophrenia) what is reality and what is fiction gets quite tiresome very quickly in this novel...an element that never sat right with me -- and never gets resolved. the novel ends in ambiguity with more questions than answers...and not that i need a neat and tidy ending, but i would like to feel some sort of resolution or growth or something that makes me feel like the book ended where it should have ended.
some of Imp's ramblings are so difficult to pick apart and understand, it is frustrating. i dont want to be tired after reading a novel. not to say i don't like reading a difficult book. look at how American Gods left me...thats a difficult book that i found immensely satisfying. but this book felt like all work with no payoff. again, i just felt that i was left with nothing at the end. just confusion and sadness and i was actually rather annoyed. maybe if i had read the physical book instead of listening to this it would have been more manageable?
final note -- no real likeable characters in this. including Imp. i wanted so much to like her. really i did. but i just couldn't.
there is a lot of folk lore and fairy tale in this book, which i did enjoy...but as i said, those portions were few and far between, and couldn't hold the rest of the book up on their unsteady stilts.
Although the book intentionally blurs the line between what is subjective, and what is objective, the book is written as a first-hand account of experiences. In the writing style adopted by the author, the mental ticks and potholes of a mentally disturbed individual truly comes through.
Not surprising that this was written by the same author as The Red Tree.
The book jumped around so much that I could never get into it. It was very promising but not for me. Could not finish it.
Average Sounding. Not inspiring.
This book was the worst one I have listened to ever! I somehow managed to listen to the whole thing, despite my better judgement, in the vain hope that something would start to make sense or have any redeeming features by the end.
the Narrator did a really good job though.
I have no idea why anyone would ever like this book, although I know it is quite popular, maybe I am just clueless, but the writing style, the content, and the pacing of the book irritated the crap out of me. This book really made me mad!!
I really liked the story, which meanders back and forth across fantasy/hallucination, supernatural occurrence, and everyday experience -- while somehow being impossible to stop listening to. The unreliable narrator-protagonist, a mentally ill young artist, India Morgan Phelps aka Imp reveals her slow unraveling through her accounts of being haunted -- by an archetype first glimpsed in a turn-of-the-century painting of a mermaid. The haunting-thriller-quasi-horror thing isn't usually my cup of tea, but this was intelligent and creepy and doesn't have a pat ending. Recommended if you're up for something new.
There were many things about this book that initially appealed to me. But the narrative - told from the viewpoint of a woman who doubts her sanity, as we do - was so loose that the plot threads just got lost. It takes a brilliant writer to hold one's attention while the characters ramble, and while this author's style, knowledge of various subjects and vivid sex scenes may have enough appeal to overcome this for some readers, it left me waiting for the end.
A troubled narrator makes some things inherently difficult, but I didn't think that she ever found her voice. The obsessions, water and animal imagery, gender issues, etc., were heavy handed and obscured the relationships that could have been a major strength of the book. In the end, I never really cared about any of the characters enough to want to untangle the story.