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Unhallowed Ground by Gillian White.
I picked up this book for just 50p from my GP surgery; they have second hand books for sale for charity.
On starting to read the first chapter it seemed like the book was going to be set in history of some 200 years ago. You are then introduced to Georgina the main character in the book set in present day. The first chapter makes comparisons between Georgina and Millie who is from 200 years ago.
I have to admit that after reading the first chapter I was confused, I wondered whether to carry on reading, as it appeared it was possibly going to be something not for me. However I perceived and thankfully the book started to make more sense.
Millie had lost a child, went mad and died. Georgina a social worker had a case where a child had died and although cleared of any wrongdoing, the press and herself still blame her.
Whilst this is occurring Georgina's brother dies. Georgina had never met him, he was a recluse apparently and left the family home before she was born, She never found out about him until she was at school. That said his pretty much derelict house is now hers and she decides this would be the perfect getaway from it all.
I have to say the book proceeds to tell the story of Georgie doing up the cottage, meeting the strange neighbours which comprise of a mother and two farming sons who are two sandwiches short of a picnic, an grumpy old man and his downtrodden younger girlfriend and the posher older couple.
Georgie has a few odd happenings in and around her cottage that take a sinister turn, ending up in murder. But who is the mystery person? Does it have anything to do with the odd occurrences? And who is the eventual murderer?
The story started off quite bizarre to me with the story of Millie and if I am honest I have no idea how it fits into the story or why it's there.
The story starts to get a bit better when you get involved in the Georgina and Angie the girl who died, as it explains why Georgie goes to the cottage and decides to stay.
For me though the story gets a bit boring I lost interest really until about the twenty chapter which is when the story heats up and the mystery becomes more dark and sinister happenings occur.
The ending was ok it made sense about who was behind the sinister mystery but I would not have guessed it. What was disappointing though was that I didn't find out what happened to Oliver, Dave or whether Georgie stays or goes. It was left a bit unfinished.
Overall it was an ok book I am undecided as to whether to recommend as although I wouldn't read it again I can see it may appeal to some people.
RRP £5.99 published by Corgi books 1998
Review maybe posted on other review sites under the same username ©
Unhallowed Ground is a good book especially if you like creepy tales. I tend to read thrillers myself though but I have read three of Gillian White's novels, the very good The Sleeper, the not as good Refuge and now this book.
What I liked about this book is the way the author sets the scene for the drama and her wonderful similes such as 'Mark was reliable, but then so are most chair legs' and 'He spluttered his disapproval and waved his arms like a tired swimmer' and there are many more.
It is not a horror book, but it very cleverly explores the psychological effect on a person who has a harrowing experience at work and then escapes that drama by moving into the Dartmoor cottage of her recently deceased elder brother that she never knew.
The story begins with a drama some 200 years in the past where an innocent uneducated village girl meets a devil, falls pregnant and dies giving rise to a powerful local legend.
Georgina Jefferson, a social worker on gardening leave after an incident with a child at work, inherits the house of her brother and moves away from her friends and the publicity glare surrounding her in London. The local people are distant in their welcoming and there is little sense of community, and as autumn then winter arrive and her friends head back to London after summer visits, Georgina finds herself isolated. She notices a large shadowy figure watching from a nearby hilltop and when strange incidents happen she becomes suspicious. Events continue to unfold and you are, as the reader, left to wonder has the devil returned.
Gillian White is a former journalist and has written sixteen novels, several of which have been successfully adapted for television, including The Sleeper.
I have read a few of Gillian Whites books and this is probably the best one out of these. Four of her books have been adapted for TV including 'the beggar bride' and 'the sleeper'. For me the books are far better than the TV adaptations but then again they always are.
The book does have a few changes of pace which are good but at times it goes at a snails pace for a bit too long.
White's descriptions of the scenes and characters are good and her use of shortened sentences at times does add a sense of urgency to the plot. White's writing style is fairly easy to read and you are not always having to go back through the chapters to find out who a character is again. Whilst her books are not as light as some they are not as heavy going as some Ruth Rendell books can be. In this book she conjures up a dark and sinister world in which the main character is living. Her style draws you into the story and her ability to write the climax of the story is fantastic. The plot is probably the most chilling out of the books I have read by this author and it has the factor of 'this could actually happen' about it.
Whilst the story does tend to focus more on one character than any of the others this in a way helps you to be drawn into the plot and assist in the imagery of what the author has written.
The Plot (short summary - trying not to give too much away)
Georgina Jefferson is not having a good time of it lately. Both her mother and brother have recently died and after making a wrong decision her job in social care has turned into a nightmare. After her brother died she inherited his small cottage, Furze Pen, in a remote valley in Dartmoor. As she arrives there on a cold snowy February day it looks like just the place she needs to be for now. Quiet and cut off where she can recover from what has gone wrong in her life.
Her neighbours whilst kindly are rather odd. The lady next door has a shopping compulsion and is constantly buying things from a catalogue, things her and her husband don't need, and more than once.
Georgina is ready to settle in for a period of peace and quiet and to think about what to do next. Then the horrors start. Was that scarecrow on the hill there when she arrived? At least she thought it was a scarecrow but scarecrows don't disappear and reappear at random, do they? Georgina's blood runs cold as it appears someone is watching her from that hilltop, but who is it?
An unexplained fire and the child's toy found in the ashes. Who's was it, there has never been a child in the house and she knows her neighbours don't have any children. As snow again falls and the small valley is cut off Georgina's fears grow and with good reason.......
The books biggest twist come towards the end where the old fashioned ways in village life are revealed.
I bought this book for £7.99 from my book club about 8 years ago and I have recently read it for the second time. This is not something I normally do as I have the kind of memory which can recall what is going to happen next in most of the books I have read. Which can be a bit annoying at times.
Some novels have a good, exciting narrative, but theres something that tends to take the shine off them, or just spoil their chances of that Really Good Read accolade. In my view, this is one such title.
Georgie (Georgina Jefferson) is a social worker in London, who makes a mistake at work that has unforeseen, traumatic consequences. She has been appalled by the death of a little girl, Angels Hopkins, and in the fallout she feels that she is being blamed by the media for her death.
A new start somewhere else is the obvious solution. She decides to put the job in London, the pointing fingers of her colleagues, the public and the tabloids, behind her. Off she goes to a remote cottage in a tiny village, in a peaceful Dartmoor valley, the place where her long-lost brother Stephen Southwell, an artist, lived and died. Furze Pen, a cottage in a peaceful valley on Dartmoor, which she first sees for herself on a snowy February day, is cold and isolated. But Georgie needs a major change in her life, a new start. And this cottage, well off the beaten track, seems like a good idea at the time.
However, the magic of being stuck in a freezing cottage miles away from anywhere doesnt last. What makes her situation worse is the fact that the neighbours, particularly the Cramers, are a pretty weird bunch and intimidating in a way that she finds hard to put her finger on.
Worse is to come. Sometimes it seems as though someone is watching her, maybe someone with evil intent, .a silent watcher on the distant hill. At first she thinks it is a scarecrow, so stark and still was it standing, but then it begins stalking her, and she feels threatened. Her condition worsens as strange happenings take place at the cottage, with chickens being attacked and their heads chopped off, and then an unexplained fire, with the remains of a child's doll smouldering in the ashes. Its all the more bizarre as there has never been a child at Furze Pen. Then with the approach of winter, snow once again blocks off the remote valley.
After that it becomes even more nightmarish. A man is found with his foot cut off. Georgie has had enough and decides to leave, and when an unknown buyer makes an offer for the cottage she is tempted to sell. But something makes her hang on, keen to get to the bottom of just what is going on around her. As a result she is alone and at her most vulnerable when the terror strikes during a fierce snowstorm.
Its a chilling story, but I also found it a rather flawed one.
Somehow, the story just doesnt really seem to flow properly. I kept on finding myself immersed in the tale, and then jumping to and fro with one flashback after another. Its a very effective device when used sparingly, but it struck me that the author was overdoing it, and making the book heavy going in places just for the sake of it. The same goes for this business of regularly switching from the past to the present tense and back again. I found it did rather spoil my enjoyment of what was otherwise quite a gripping narrative.
Admittedly, I kept reading to the end it was difficult not to, especially as I was keen to know what happened the ultimate litmus test of a book like this. Also, as someone who has spent most of my life in this area of Devon, I found the evocation of local colour first-rate. (The author lives in Totnes, not far from Dartmoor, by the way). It was an engrossing story, and because of that I can recommend it, but with reservations. It could have been so much better.
Georgie, a social worker, makes a mistake at work that has terrible consequences. She flees from London and the accusations of her colleagues, the public and the tabloids, to a remote cottage in a tiny village, the place where her long-lost brother lived and died. But it seems as though someone is watching her, maybe someone with evil intent... "Unhallowed Ground" is very atmospheric, and set its scene well. The pleasure and satisfaction of restoring and renewing a manky old building and making it warm and cosy is possibly the part that is best conveyed - not high praise when you're talking about a thriller and not a coffeetable tie-in to BBC1's Changing Rooms. Nearly three-quarters of the book moves along in a low gear, then there's a big snowstorm and suddenly we're whizzing about in fifth. Suddenly the action heightens and becomes more gruesome, and then you have the denouement, which is surprisingly anti-climatic. Most of the way through the book you have no idea who Georgie's stalker might be. Eventually characters are introduced that seem plausible candidates, but then when you DO find out who the killer is you're more likely to go "huh?" than "ah-hah!". The clues are there, but there's no emotional pay-off, and you realise that all of the subplots about Georgie's job, her mistake, her family and her love-life are more for filler than for anything else. It's not often I wish I was right when I guessed who the killer was - I usually prefer to be surprised - but when your red-herring character makes for a better story than your real killer, you're in trouble.