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What does it really mean to be haunted? Where is the boundary between the experience of a ghost and the more prosaic experience of being haunted by the memory of a person, a book, a story, a painting or a piece of music? How do our minds interpret a haunting and how does it affect our lives? If a haunting can trouble a sane mind, how much more might it disturb an already troubled mind?
If it seems that I've begun this review with too many questions, I suppose it is because I believe this book is best understood as reflecting those questions. It is written from the viewpoint of India/Imp, who is a schizophrenic from a family of mentally disturbed women. It is in the form of a memoir in which she is attempting to reconcile, understand, and simply remember a sequence of experiences revolving around a woman (ghost?) named Eva Canning. Woven into the story are Imp's reactions to pieces of art, music, literature, religion, mythology and popular culture, all of which become part of her haunting. The story is enhanced by a pair of “stories within a story,” one of which, “The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean”, I especially found both compelling and disturbing.
All of this is to explore the premise that hauntings are what the protagonist describes as "particularly pernicious thought contagions." The book has its challenges, especially when Imp drifts into psychotic episodes. The narrative is often non-linear as it reflects Imps's attempt to piece her experiences together into a coherent story and thus can be difficult to follow at times. But really, isn't this how all our minds work to a certain extent? We have a collection of memories we hold within our minds and those memories shape who we are and how we behave. We construct our own stories around those memories to make sense of them. Some of these stories may reflect reality more than others but they are all equally "real" to us.
If you are interested in a more straight-forward ghost story with a clear-cut resolution, you will probably be frustrated with this book. But if you can appreciate a well-written story exploring the vagaries of the human mind and which leaves as many questions unanswered as answered, you will find this a fascinating and thought-provoking book.
30 of 33 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Drowning Girl again? Why?
In a heartbeat! It's not every day you can find a book about two artists, three paintings, four deaths, one murder, a cult and a big black eye with a bag of frozen peas on it and have it all fit together.Oh, and there's a really, really, really sweet love story in this. I'm such a sucker for those kind of things (total girl). It's a *different* kind of love to be sure, but it's filled with just as many feels. In fact, if I had to list one complaint it would be that I wanted more everyday stuff between Imp and Abalyn and I didn't get it.
What other book might you compare The Drowning Girl to and why?
1. The Little Mermaid.2. Little Red Riding Hood. 3. The Black Dahlia. But these are just superficial resemblances really. It's so hard to talk about this book in comparison with any other piece because it is just so. damn. unique.I once wrote something about another work by this author that I think is still relevant to her work today :"Caitlin R Keirnan writes the way most people experience dreams. Similarly it it impossible to talk about her books in the same way it is impossible to talk of dreams and have the subject retain it's integrity without reducing it to either inanity or a series or random disconnected images. Reading The Drowning Girl is an exercise in wakeful dreaming."I stand by this statement.
What three words best describe Suzy Jackson’s voice?
Suzy Jackson is a very talented narrator and I would be willing to listen to other books by her. I'm just not sold on her being the right voice for this book. I don't think she has the right grip on what Kiernan is trying to do in her story - I mean this is one of the greater attempts at reinventing the novel this side of the year 2000 and Suzy's voice just sounds too ... oh, I don't know, young-ish? But everyone else here seems to love her for this story, so obviously I'm talking crazy and shouldn't be listened to.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
Imp is schizophrenic, it runs in the family, and has caused her mum and gran to commit suicide. When Imp starts obsessing over a painting of a drowning girl, and its relevance to the original telling of the fairytale Red Riding Hood; the listener is left to decipher what is real and what is mentally evoked imaginings.
I found this quite distressing, as Imp was in so much turmoil, and having a knowledge of OCD, those sections were painful to listen to as the author had obviously really done her homework.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this. Neil Gaiman was dead right, in his introduction, when he spoke of how suitable the narrator was. She made the story come to life. As for the story itself it is a fascinating (and, I have been told) extremely accurate look into the mind of a schizophrenic. I feel this detracted from the story ever so slightly, leaving this reader a little unfulfilled at the conclusion. However, this should not be seen as a massive criticism as I really did enjoy the book as a whole. I felt for the characters and the situation was brought to live in a vivid and engaging fashion. I will be seeking out further work by the author.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful