The Ghost Writer

Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
4 out of 5 stars (155 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this tantalizing tale of Victorian ghost stories and family secrets, timid, solitary librarian Gerard Freeman lives for just two things: his elusive pen pal Alice and a story he found hidden in his mother's drawer years ago.

Written by his great-grandmother Viola, it hints at his mother's role in a sinister crime. As he discovers more of Viola's chilling tales, he realizes that they might hold the key to finding Alice and unveiling his family's mystery - or will they bring about his untimely death, as they seem to foretell?

Harwood's astonishing, assured debut shows us just how dangerous family skeletons - and stories - can be.

©2013 John Harwood; 2013 Blackstone Audiobooks

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A modern master of the Gothic

In 2004, I took "The Ghost Writer" on a long, dreaded flight. By the time the plane landed, I knew I would be reading everything Harwood published for the rest of my life.

Listening to Simon Vance's performance was such a treat. It's like when you listen to a piece of music and love it on an emotional level, then listen again to find the deeper structure and beauty. "The Ghost Writer" is all the more impressive ten years after.

Harwood plays fair and respects his reader. All the clues are there but he expects you to pay attention and think things through. His foreshadowing is subtle and well-timed. There is no dumping of information or meaningless backstory, and every scene contributes to the advancement of the plot. His writing is masterful, and as a poet, some of his imagery is arresting, but his prose never calls attention to itself. Add to that compelling characters and layers of intriguing mysteries waiting to be solved, and you've got a writer worth reading every time.

In a world of overwritten, self-conscious twaddle we are told is "literature," modern masters like Harwood shine all the more brightly. He provides everything I read fiction for and I hope he will continue to write novels for many years to come.

15 people found this helpful

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Spellbinding... left something to be be desired.

There was so much about this novel that I absolutely loved. I spent most of the novel awestruck at the well entangled composition. Like many other reviews, the last chapter left me feeling incomplete. I read and reread it and finally drew my own conclusions. The ending didn't by any means ruin the rest of this spellbinding novel. I would still highly recommend it.

8 people found this helpful

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Ghostly Cornucopia

If you're looking for a good ghost story for the Halloween season, this one is a good bet. Allusions to creepy literary spinsters—Henry James's Miss Jessel and Dickens's Miss Havisham—create the atmosphere for this gothic suspense novel.

The protagonist grows up in Australia with a mother who refuses to speak about the details of her childhood in England. As he grows older, he becomes increasingly curious about his mother's reasons for leaving England and her reluctance to talk about her past. He returns to England and begins to piece together what might have happened, discovering short ghost stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola. These wonderfully spooky tales, filled with supernatural occurrences and séances, are interwoven into the main narrative and offer tantalizing clues about the family's history.

The narrative can get a bit confusing at times, as we jump between Viola's stories and the protagonist's life, something that probably is a bit more of a challenge in the audio format. One must pay close attention to keep the characters straight or be prepared to rewind in order to keep track of the story--I had to rewind several times but actually welcomed the chance to do so because I really didn't want the book to end. The ending makes perfect sense but you really have to think about it. Happy hauntings!

3 people found this helpful

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Had me guessing until the very end

What did you love best about The Ghost Writer?

A unique twist on the classic genre.

Any additional comments?

This is a great story. Interesting characters and great twist at the end.

2 people found this helpful

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It's not that hard, people.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Ghost Writer to be better than the print version?

I rarely write reviews but wanted to weak up fr this beautifully written and actually suspenseful book regarding the ending. Anyone who simply pays attention, lets the book happen and doesn't have expectations of their own will understand the ending. Honesty, anyone who just pays attention will. I almost didn't buy this book because of the reviews and amI glad I chose to ignore them.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Ghost Writer?

Inside the house.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes and he's wonderful as usual.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes!

5 people found this helpful

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unwrap 5 stand alone ghost stories nesting in one

Loaded with pivotal plot twist, intellectually stimulating. a unique approach, it was concurrently a feeling of authentically classic gothic ghost story genre and fresh unpredictable realizations as pieces of the puzzle fall seamlessly into place. the visuals were poignant. the suspense building intense. the mystery seasoned to perfection with just a dash of deliciously scary, (sleeping with the lights on for a month) in all the right places. A story I will not ever forget I have read. Brilliant narration! Very Spooky!

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Riveting!

I couldn’t stop listening! I was guessing until the end and still hadn’t figured it out until the reveal. Simon Vance is the best narrator I’ve ever heard. The transition to different characters is seamless and at no time did I think “Oh! This is a man doing a woman’s voice!” I think his accent work is beyond excellent. I would listen to a book just because he narrates it.

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Finished!

As a teenager, I had this book in hard copy. I never got around to finishing it and that always bothered me. I finally finished it here on audible. I think the joy of finishing the book after all these years over shadows the joy of the story.

The story itself isn't bad, just hard to follow if you're not to r ally focused. As an audiobook, you usually listen as you do other things. Perhaps the book is better if you focus more or have hard copy.

The audio readers voice is emaculate. Smooth and pleasant.

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excellent narration for a hohum story

story meanders overlong with a meh predictable reveal. Ending is rather abrupt after such meticulous detail for the rest of the story.

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Great

The Narrator is excellent and the story very good, though there are many stories within stories so sometimes it's challenging to keep track of who is who, especially in audio book format. I should have liked a little more story at the conclusion, but really, very good. the author is an excellent writer, not just because of plot, but also his eloquence of phrasing. Not once did I find the expressions tedious or unrealistic or overdramatised.

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  • barjil
  • 07-07-14

Disappointing

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I was so looking forward to this book, having loved 'The Asylum'. But I found 'The Ghost Writer' almost impossible to finish with its extraordinary mixture of gothic fantasy and supposedly real life. I plodded on till the end because I felt that the whole thing must eventually come together and I suppose in a way it did, but I was left feeling it had been a total waste of time. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

What will your next listen be?

'The Killer Next Door'!

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Simon Vance is an excellent reader but I think that even his skill couldn't save the book; maybe it worked better on the page

Do you think The Ghost Writer needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

NO! See above.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M.D Odell
  • 07-07-14

A complex and frightening little chiller

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Because it does what horror should do. It is scary, chilling and effortlessly gothic.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The narrator probably. A relatable narrator who manages to tell a great ghost story while still having great character is something even M.R James struggled with on occasion.

What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?

His accent is a touch odd at first, but then as the book goes on you realise just how versatile a performer he is, bringing chills and a unique perspective on each character.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The ending, and the way each of the ghost stories played out. But a good horror book is measured by how well it pulls off it's big 'twist'. You may think you see this one coming, but you don't. You REALLY don't.

Any additional comments?

It's a great slide of modern gothic with ingeniously intertwined stories. The epilogue is perhaps more abrupt than I would like, but this is a skilfully written and frightening novel.

2 people found this helpful

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  • david
  • 06-25-15

No spoilers

I did see the end coming but only just, it was a good story and kept me guessing and puzzling.