History: This book was published in 1999.
Plot: Geordie, a WWI veteran, is over 100, but is hanging on to life with the same stubbornness and iconoclasm that have seen him through the entire 20th century. His grandson, Nick, living in grim, contemporary Newcastle-on-Tyne, is struggling with his own life as he monitors Geordie's last days. Nick's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, Miranda, has come to stay; his new wife, Fran, with her own kid, Gareth, an emotionally disturbed games freak , has two-year-old Jasper to contend with and another baby on the way. Now it seems that their new house may be haunted by the kind of malign domestic spirit at large among Nick's little family. The house apparently was occupied by a well known family in which the small boy was murdered, and the two older siblings were tried for the murder and found not guilty. The occasional appearance of the girl keeps the novel suspenseful.
Geordie, too, has his own ghosts - a hideous war memory, long buried, that must be exorcised before he can die in peace. He tells his friend Helen, who tapes him, that he killed his brother in the war, because he had a fatal wound and was suffering, screaming. This is something he has had to live with his entire life, and dies the day after he told this to Helen. vb c
Review: The story is a good one, but the ending left me disappointed. The most uninteresting part for me was the death of his grandfather, and the most interesting part were the ghost family, which was left undone. It has an immediacy that strikes you from the very beginning. You’re introduced to characters so intimately that you feel you are halfway through the book already. The novel focusses on one family’s ability to hold themselves together. They’re each fighting social trauma in some way or other be it broken relationships, parental issues, bullying or memories of 80 years ago. And, threaded throughout this is the haunting history of a family who lived in their house 100 years before them.
Opening Line: "Cars queue bumper to bumper, edge forward, stop, edge forward again."
Closing Line: "But now, looking round this churchyard, at the gently decaying stones that line the path, he sees that there’s wisdom too in this: to let the innocent and the guilty, the murderers and the victims, lie together beneath their half-erased names, side by side, under the obliterating grass."
Quotes: "The past never threatens anything as simple, or as avoidable, as repetition. "