Book Review : Touched by Joanna Briscoe

July 15, 2014 Book review 2 ★★★★


This is a book where you can feel free to judge it by its cover. The cover is deliciously creepy and what’s inside is equally haunting and spooky. And even better the writing is delicious too and if this is a sample of what Joanne Briscoe can deliver, then I want more.

Book Review : Touched by Joanna BriscoeTouched by Joanna Briscoe
Published by Random House on 1st July 2014
Genres: Fiction, Ghost, Horror
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received from Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A chilling, deeply creepy Hammer novella by Joanna Briscoe, author of the acclaimed, bestselling novel, Sleep With Me.

Rowena Shawn is fed-up. She and her family have recently moved into a new house in a small English village. They've taken on a local builder, but his efforts to knock two cottages into the bigger single house she envisages is fraught with problems.

The walls ooze damp, stains come through layers of wallpaper, ceilings sag, and strange noises -- voices -- emanate from empty rooms.  And then there's her daughter, Eva, who has always been odd, but is now positively strange. Once fat, she appears to be starving herself, becoming thinner with each passing week.  Neglected and unloved, Eva has formed a close and inappropriate attachment to the builder -- too close some of the villages think, and inappropriate because Pollock likes children just a little too much.

Then Rowena's eldest and prettiest daughter, Jennifer, goes missing.   As a frantic search is mounted, the house reveals its darkest secret: a hidden room with no windows and no obvious entrance. Boarded up, it smells of breath, custard, Dettol -- and death.  Set in the 1960s when many women's lives were hidebound by convention, Joanna Briscoe's novella is unsettling, deeply creepy and set in a world where appearances are everything, and absolutely nothing is as it seems.

The First Line of Touched:

“I have seen Pollard again.”

 My Thoughts on Touched:

First off this is a novella which is not my favourite format. But it’s not a short novella, it is actually 256 pages and that is more than sufficient for this well developed plot to play out. Any longer and it might have felt dragged out but the length and the pace of the book were perfect to maintain the suspense and intrigue.

As soon as I read the synopsis, I was hooked. Why were the children disappearing? This is one of the books where you need to clear the decks and read over one or two sittings as it will draw you in and you won’t want to stop until you have uncovered all its creepy secrets. I loved that in this book what you were reading about was chilling but even more chilling was the direction your imagination took you in.

The story is subtle but the writing is so descriptive and the prose is so lyrical that I was living in a ghostly reality while I was reading. And the writing made my imagination drift down foggy paths where anything seemed possible.   Sometimes my matter of fact personality makes it difficult for me to fully buy into supernatural plots but here I had no difficulty at all and I fully attribute that to the atmospheric writing.

The characters are interesting and unique. I did find it hard initially to empathise fully with Rowena; she seemed like such a poor mother. She was unconcerned initially when Eva when missing as it made her life easier without her around and also was always happy to pass the baby on to her eldest children to look after. But the more you read on, the more you realise why she is the way she is. And you see that she really does care about her little family and I ended up caring about her.

Rowena’s story is a very human one and combines nicely with the paranormal elements. And her unexpected choices at times added interest and fullness to her character. Not always in a likable way but in a way that makes her an intriguing character to analyse. As for her husband…I’d love to smack him one! The children of whom we only get short glimpses of are quite unique and I’d like to have known more about them, especially offbeat Eva who is marching to her own drum.

And finally the little twist at the end again threw me. I wasn’t expecting that and it made me feel quite emotional.   And that isn’t something I’d expect from a ghost story.

Overall Touched has amazing prose that creates a creepy atmosphere and induces some spine-chilling moments. At the same time, it’s not over scary (always a good point for wimps like me!).


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars



Who should read Touched?

If you are looking for an eerie read, with lyrical prose and lots of disturbing appearances and disappearances, then I’d highly recommend this one to you.

Thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


Bookish Chat : Do you like ghost stories?  Does this sound like something that would interest you?  Or share with me what your favourite ghost story is.


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