Monday 31 October 2016

Clare Reviews: Fell by Jenn Ashworth

FellTitle: Fell
Author: Jenn Ashworth
Source: Received from publisher for an honest review
Publisher: Sceptre
Pages: 362
Rating: 2.5/5
Blurb: When Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn't realise is that she's not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette... Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.

This story is told from an unusual perspective - that of two "ghosts" who speak in the second person as though they are a joint unit. They are the parents of Annette who has just returned to the family home following the death of her stepmother. 

Her return wakes the spirits of her parents who proceed to watch her. All the time. It makes for, at times, a very slow and even dull read. As ghosts Netty and Jack don't do a whole lot. They follow Annette around the house and have frequent flashbacks to the summer of 1963. It's in this time that most of the story takes place. The perspective then flips around a lot, at times in second person and then in third - something I found disorienting but others might find a draw. From the blurb I was expecting some kind of thriller aspect - the charismatic stranger turning out to be evil. And it wasn't quite like that. He was charismatic and opportunist but not exactly a looming threat. 

This character, Tim, was the most interesting of the four. He was very interesting and if the book had delved more into his "powers" and his mindset I might have found it more gripping. Instead we spend a lot of time inside the, frankly boring, head of Jack and some time inside Netty's. We don't, either, spend a lot of time with Annette who I had thought would be the main character of the novel. Apart from a few scenes in the present day where she... takes a bath and tries to cut down a tree, we don't see her that often. Which may be a reflection on the abandonment of her parents in that summer. We also get hints that Annette may have picked up (by osmosis I assume) the powers of Tim. But, again, this is never really gotten into and apart from those few hints and a couple of "power of persuasion" moments which could just be charisma we don't really get to see anything come of this. 

Perhaps my main problem when getting through this book was that it couldn't decide whether it was a supernatural novel or a corporeal one. Which, I know, is kind of the point - blending the corporeal and the spirit worlds. But the spirit world, including Tim's mystical powers - don't really achieve much over the course of the novel. If this had been a ghost story with characters who could do "magic" I might have enjoyed it more. Or if it had been entirely set in the 60's and there was more doubt over whether Tim was truly a healer or possibly a con man, again I might have enjoyed it more.

Ultimately I think this wasn't for me. I was let down by my own expectations (which is my own fault not the books), but I also feel like this was two good stories that, in blending, lost some of their impact. I do feel like this is a book that plenty of people will enjoy. It was both evocative and original, as promised by the blurb, and it would make a great book club read. I just didn't personally enjoy it. 

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