Simon Bestwick's The Feast of All Souls was published by Solaris Books in December 2016.
Information about Simon Bestwick:
Simon Bestwick lives in Lancashire and is the author of Tide of Souls, two short story collections, A Hazy Shade of Winter and Pictures of The Dark, and a chapbook, Angels of The Silences. His short fiction has appeared most recently in the anthologies Where the Heart is, Never Again and The End of The Line. His novella, The Narrows, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award and reprinted in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, while the Daily Telegraph praised Tide of Souls for 'the quality of the writing. Simon Bestwick writes with great imaginative flair and an excellent grasp of colour and narrative pace.'
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about The Feast of All Souls:
Alice's house stands at a gateway between worlds. Now something has awoken on the other side - and she's in its way...
378 Collarmill Road looks like an ordinary house. But sometimes, the world outside the windows isn't the one you expect to see. And sometimes you ll turn around and find you're not alone.
The suburb of Crawbeck, on a hill outside the English city of Manchester, overlooks the woodlands of Browton Vale. Alice Collier was happy here, once, but following the end of her marriage and loss of her daughter, she's come back to pick up the threads of her life.
John Revell, an old flame of Alice's, reluctantly comes to her aid when the house begins to reveal its secrets. The hill on which it sits is a place of legends of Old Harry, the Beast of Crawbeck, of the Virgin of the Height and of the mysterious Red Man and home to the secrets of the shadowy Arodias Thorne.
And now Alice and John stand between him and rest of our world...
A REVIEW OF SIMON BESTWICK'S THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS
Simon Bestwick's The Feast of All Souls is pure pleasure for readers who love ghost stories. It's not your average ghost story, but something much more rewarding, because it starts out as a normal ghost story, but soon takes a turn into a new direction. It's one of the best horror novels I've read during the recent years, because it's an entertaining, thrilling and well written account of strange and sinister happenings at 378 Collarmill Road in Manchester.
The Feast of All Souls is a delightfully old-fashioned yet modern horror novel with a focus on atmosphere and storytelling. The author blends old-school horror elements with modern horror elements in a satisfying way by spicing up his modern story with Gothic and sinister elements.
I was pleased to read this novel, because I found it wholly satisfying and was fascinated by the well-created protagonist and her complicated life. In my opinion, The Feast of All Souls is an ambitious and well written novel, because the author has added many elements and lots of layers to the story.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
- The narrative alternates between the present day and the 19th century.
- In 2016: After the divorce and the death of her daughter, Alice moves alone into a big house outside the city of Manchester. Her mother thinks that the house is too big for her, but Alice is set on living there, because she wants to be left alone so that she can sort out her life... Alice begins to hear strange voices that sound like children are somewhere nearby. A while later she takes a walk around the neighbouring area and notices that certain things seem to have subtly changed and a fire burns upon the naked hill, but then - all of a sudden - everything looks familiar again. More strange things begin to happen around and nearby the house and Alice begins to question her sanity... Soon Alice meets her old flame, John Revell, who is interested in parapsychology. She asks for John's help, because she has realised that there's something wrong with the house and she needs help to figure out what's going on...
- In 1888: Mr Muddock and Mrs Rhodes listen to Mary Carson's confession about her life and how she came to be a secretary to Mr Arodias Thorne who lives in Springcross House. She warns them that they may have cause to be unsettled by her account...
I won't reveal more about the story, but I'll mention that this marks the beginning of an unsettling chain of events that puts Alice's courage, perseverance and mental health to test, because she finds out macabre things about the house and its past.
What makes this novel stand out among other horror novels is Simon Bestwick's realistic way of writing about Alice and her life. The characterisation is excellent, because the author writes fluently about Alice and reveals many things about her past. Alice is a fully three-dimensional protagonist whose life is anything but easy, because she has lost her daughter and has to start her life over.
The author writes well about Alice's relationship with her old flame, John Revell, and how they broke up because of John's interest in paranormal phenomena. It was interesting to read about how their views of paranormal phenomena clashed together, because Alice didn't believe in them.
It's great that the author explores Alice's state of mind and mental health in a believable way, because it adds depth to the story. It was interesting for me to read about how Alice tried to make sense of what was happening in the house and thought that she was seeing hallucinations caused by grief and drugs, because she couldn't explain the strange events in any other way. Everything about Alice's desperation feels natural.
The death of Alice's daughter brings plenty of sadness and sorrow to the storyline. I think it's good to mention that if you find stories featuring such topics as loss of a child and ghost children unsettling, this novel may not be your cup of tea, because the author writes quite a lot about them. The ghost children in this novel are not your normal kind of benign ghosts, but malevolent spirits intent on doing harm.
I enjoyed reading about Mary Carson's account, because it adds a touch of old-fashioned Gothic feel to the story. Because Mary was a clergyman's daughter who found herself struggling to find steady employment, it was interesting to read about how she got a job as Mr Arodias Thorne's secretary and what she experienced in his house. The relationship between Mary and Mr Thorne was handled well, because Mr Thorne was a formidable man with a lust for money and interest in arcane knowledge and Mary was an innocent woman who ended up admiring and loving him.
This novel has many elements that are strongly rooted in Gothic storytelling. The ghost children and the happenings at Springcross House are fascinatingly Gothic and the atmosphere becomes increasingly sinister as the story begins to unfold and readers find out how Mary's story is connected to Alice's life.
I find the author's writing style gripping, because he writes fluent prose. I like his his way of intensifying the atmosphere by gradually revealing more things about the house and its past, because - just like all the best horror authors - he lets the story unfold at its own pace and delivers chilling and unsettling scenes. I enjoyed reading about what Mary found out about Mr Thorne, because the author had written her confession in an excellent way.
In my opinion, Simon Bestwick is one of the few horror authors who are fully adept at adding a bit of humour to the story without making it seem tasteless. Tiny bits of humour can be found throughout the story, but they never weaken the atmosphere. I think that readers will enjoy reading about Reverend Sixsmythe and her charming quirkiness, because she's a well-created character.
When I read this novel, I was slightly reminded of James Herbert's ghost novels. There was something in the author's writing style that was reminiscent of Herbert's stories. This was a pleasant surprise, because there hasn't really been any kind of heir to James Herbert until now. If you're familiar with James Herbert's ghost stories, you'll most likely find this novel enticing, because there's a deep British feel to it.
Before I finish writing this review, I want to mention that the cover art by Ben Baldwin is wonderfully atmospheric. It fits the story perfectly.
I give this novel full five stars on the scale from one to five stars for its story, characterisation and atmosphere. I enjoyed it immensely, because it was an entertaining horror novel. It's great that the author has come up with a story that differs from normal ghost stories.
If you have a taste for ghost stories and enjoy reading haunted house novels, Simon Bestwick's The Feast of All Souls won't disappoint you. It'll charm and chill you with its story, because it blends old-school horror elements with modern horror elements in a satisfying way. Because it has been written in the tradition of the best novels of the genre, it will please horror readers who are looking for something new to read.
Excellent British horror fiction!