Will Stanton was the Harry Potter of MY childhood - a hermetic, pagan, and somewhat fatalistic Harry Potter - but a kid wizard nonetheless.
That being said, this is an extraordinary children's book. If it is unrealistic and predictable, then it is so only to the degree that all children's novels don't pay the same attention to place and plot-twist as some adult novels.
The appeal of this piece to a non-child "Audible" listener should be akin to that of well-done animation and fairy tales. Cooper interweaves somber Celtic myth with modern middle-class life. The effect is enchanting and - at times - unsettling. The accomplished narrator, too, I insist performs a conscientious and careful re-telling of what is, essentially, a dark and pre-adolescent Arthurian legend. Unlike the tales of the other kid sorcerer, Will's story wraps around archetypal imagery and highly abstract themes from the vantage of a sympathizable "everyboy" protagonist. Thus - it does not FEEL like a children's novel - nor at any point will a listener feel condescended to by the novel. It treats its child-audienced readers like adults and with dignity. It does not make itself easily accessible for them as some childrens' books do.
Freud could have a hey-day, carrying on about child-Narcissism and the damaging effects of fantasy writing on childhood development, so I won't recommend it for children anymore than I would Harry Potter. But if you must choose of the two - pick this piece for its 'humanist-responsibility' theme, impressive lexicon, and broad spectrum of emotional imagery. And for adults ... we all like cartoons and crayons - try out this title, which I highly recommend for that exceptionally gifted pre-adolescent in everyone.
What a wonderful, eerie little novelette!
While the reviews above are correct in saying it's not a traditional horror story a la King or Rice, but it is a quintessential Jackson piece, playing with the horror of the fantastic to bring out the greater horror in mundane life. It's a ghost story for people too old to believe in ghosts. Psychologically wrenching, "Haunting" deserves to be bought, heard, and heard several times over.
The protagonist is worthy of any Rice novel, all gossamer and rosebuds - with an unsettling desperation in her actions. She leads the storyline along a twisting, deceptive plot, fraught with eccentric personalities, unsettling details, and an odor of allegory. All the while, Jackson's characteristic sense of casualness goads the listener with suspense and forestalled questions.
The events are staged in an almost absurd, "scooby-doo" scenario - a haunted house and a set of secondary characters, dour like a 50's horror film. The effect is inentional, though, and the mood disturbing. Background details spark and ignite like flashes in the corner of your vision. The characters' interactions and behavior lure the listener into deeper psychological speculation. Just when one interpretation of the frightening events seems clear, the story accumulates another series of details to cloud a remark or discovery. Make no mistake - there is no gore and guts - nothing so pedestrian. On the contary, the story is simply and thoroughly terrifying.
But this is all part of Jackson's black magic; in her early interviews, she shocked American readers, claiming to be a witch. The tremendous familiarity and (try avoiding it as you might) sympathy that she engenders in the characters will make you a believer.
I strongly recommend this title.
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