My favourite monthly tag, hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps.
Links in the titles will take you to my reviews where they exist. This month our starting book is:
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I’ve long owned a copy of this 1898 novella, but never read it. However, one of the film adaptations of it gave me nightmares for years – I can remember it being uni hols, and being at home on a bright, sunny, winter’s day, watching The Innocents on TV by myself – and it truly got to me. The 1961 film stars Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens, the governess disturbed by ghosts and the children she is looking after, it also featured Peter Wyngarde and Michael Redgrave and child actor Martin Stevens was Miles, who had already scared us in Village of the Damned (1960) adapted from John Wyndham’s Midwich Cuckoos. Truman Capote doctored the original film script of The Innocents making it much darker apparently, and John Mortimer added scenes, so it has that potential to scare as you can tell. No film since has made me jump in quite the same way when faces appear in windows and the like! Another film adapted from a novel, that scared me stiff was:
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Mia Farrow was so perfect, even if the film wasn’t brilliant, apart from the ending which has that so scary ending! I’m told that the book is much, much better with an increasing sense of foreboding and I do have a copy on my shelves. Talking of a sense of foreboding takes me to:
Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr
This 1958 novel is my favourite children’s book ever.
Marianne is confined to bed with an illness that will take several months to recuperate from. She starts to draw to pass the time, using an old pencil she found in her Grannie’s workbox. She draws a house with a garden and a fence around it. That night, she dreams and she is at the house she drew. She adds more details each night, including a boy in the house, and those nasty stones with eyes and they still creep me out today! They threaten the house so well.
Another even more scary novel with young protagonists is:
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
I recommend this Swedish novel to anyone for its depiction of a child vampire. Let the Right One In is something truly dark and horrific that needed a strong stomach and nerves of steel. It is a real contemporary chiller, full of violence and gore, totally relentless – yet at its heart is a the redemptive relationship between a twelve year old boy and a 200 year old vampire frozen into the body of a young girl.
More contemporary creepiness of a different kind is:
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
To divert from the supernatural for a mo, I See You is a psychological thriller about being stalked, which has an extremely high creep factor indeed. Clever, twisty and deeply dark. It was truly unputdownable, and another unputdownable and scary book is:
Daughters unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Published as YA, this novel was really disturbing. Narrated by a sixteen year old with a secret and set in pioneer times, her family relocates to an abandoned house on the prairies, only to discover that it was abandoned for a reason. As far away from Laura Ingalls Wilder as you could get, I loved this debut novel with its wonderful narrator. And finally that brings me to one of the masters of unsettling tales:
Cold Hand in Mine by Robert Aickman
This collection of eight short stories from the 1970s is as soaked in drama as the book before was steeped in blood. Aickman was a master of weird (he liked the word ‘strange’ to describe his work) and his strength was in taking an ordinary situation then stressing his characters just enough to induce full-blown paranoia in his innocent narrators. All of the stories are narrated in the first person by their main character, recounting their awful experiences. Most of the horror is all in the mind; not for him the excesses of the most gory of slasher novels … just the odd touches. There’s no room in the short story format for extended battles against demons, the undead and the like. You either beguile the reader before hitting them with the strangeness big-time, or immerse them in atmosphere from the start. Likewise, there are two types of endings: relief, whether the protagonist perishes or gets away or, more likely – a continued unease. Aickman can do all of these.
So to celebrate the start of October in which my mind always turns to some darker reading, my six degrees have taken us all around the supernatural world of ghosts, vampires and demons, with detours into the paranoia of real life.
Where will your six degrees take you?