Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

My third read for Twenty Books of Summer is short book packed full of atmosphere, which unsurprisingly won the Shirley Jackson award.

A group of young acid-folk musicians are sent off to an old country house a la Mike Oldfield by their manager to work on that difficult second album (at least I think it’s their second, but that’s not important right now). However, all is not as it seems. There is something distinctly odd about the house itself; the village is pretty welcoming, though their closest neighbour warns that they shouldn’t wander in the woods alone…..

Of course this warning goes unheeded by the band’s charismatic lead singer Julian. Among the standard sex & drugs & rock’n’roll there are the usual musical and relationship tensions and the appearance of a mysterious unnamed young girl with whom Julian becomes obsessed. And then he disappears and never comes back.

The story is told by the surviving band members, friends and associates as someone is making a documentary about what became a hugely influential album with a very influential cover. Who is that strange figure that no-one remembers being there on the day.

I will admit that I had to look up what acid rock actually was, only to find that I had listened to loads of it over the years which amused me greatly. It became popular in the 1960s and merged acoustic folk with instruments with elements more often found in psychedelia. Think early T.Rex and my fellow countryman Donovan.

I enjoyed this very much. I loved the structure of the novel because I’m a sucker for anything resembling oral history, podcast transcripts and so on, and this is a really good example of that genre (if it’s a genre). The story has a lovely creepy gothic quality enhanced by the hazy summer setting, and has some unsettling moments. Very much worth reading.

Looking back at June 2021

A quick round-up of bookish things from the last month. There was so. much. RAIN!

The stats:

  • Books read – 5
  • Pages read – 1382
  • Goodreads update – 37 books completed, 62% of my target

Challenges:

  • 20 Books of Summer – I have only read five books from the 20 I’m aiming for, with three currently underway.
  • David Copperfield – I’ve decided not to do this now; I think it’s more of a winter project for me.

And now to July’s pre-orders

  • What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo – being described as Miss Peregrine meets the Addams Family; works for me.
  • Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North – “Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age – a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded, so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.” I love Claire and I’m really looking forward to this.
  • A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers – the beginning of a new series called Monk and Robot; much anticipated.
  • The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – sounds most excellent and I’ll try very very hard not to compare if to We Are All Completely Fine 🙂
  • Mimic by Daniel Cole – more serial killers; this one recreating works of art with dead bodies because of course they are
  • The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig – Rural Pennsylvania, long-buried secrets, a child in danger – share your secrets with your family before you move into the creepy house, people!
  • The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox – a supernatural police force, a spirit guide and a detective called Lazarus; should be fun
  • Bryant & May – London Bridge is Falling Down by Christopher Fowler – the next entry in the long-running and thoroughly enjoyable B&M series.
  • Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams – I have a lot of admiration for Jen and am really looking forward to her first foray into crime/thriller territory
  • The Letters of Shirley Jackson, because I love reading other people’s letters……

I’m currently reading four books and hoping to have a prolific month, but we’ll have to wait and see. Hope you all have a great July and stay well 🙂

1974 by David Peace

David Peace is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time, but I suppose I was nervous to give him a try as I had heard that he was difficult to read and/or an acquired taste. But what is #20booksofsummer for if not to give new things a try. So I thought I’d start at the very beginning with the author’s very first novel.

A young girl has gone missing in Yorkshire. Eddie Dunford, is the local young reporter assigned to the case. Because the child is found dead and mutilated, Eddie starts to make connections between this case and previous murders of young girls, which in turn leads him into the very murky world of corruption, police brutality and violence. It does not end well. At all.

I was born in 1962 so a lot of the references in this novel to the mid-1970s are so, so familiar. Everything was a shade of brown, mostly due to the seemingly constant smoking. There is/was so much drinking. And of course there is the horrible murder itself with echoes of Hindley & Brady and the Yorkshire Ripper yet to come. There are some scenes of genuinely horrifying brutality which were quite difficult to read, but they added such depth to what is undoubtedly an immensely powerful novel.

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to engage with David Peace’s work, but I’ve already bought the next novel in the Red Riding sequence and can see myself reading much more.

This was my second read for Twenty Books of Summer 2021