Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Read in 2011 - 18: The Ghost in Love

After "The Little Stranger", which was the 17th book I have completed this year and called "almost a ghost story" in my review, I have finished another ghost story last night.

But once again, "The Ghost in Love" by Jonathan Carroll is not your typical ghost story.
There are no haunted houses, nightly noises or eerie sights.
Instead, this is a quirky voyage of discovery of one man's live - and death, which did not happen - and the author is brimming with so many funny and weird ideas that it sometimes gets a bit much. For my liking, at least.

If you have read "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, you will already be familiar with how the otherworldly becomes part of the everyday, mundane life of what seems to be a typical couple in the U.S. (New York in this case, I think; forgive me for being less than precise about that, but location is not what this book is about).

Jonathan Carroll's ideas are truly funny, quirky and - in their context - reasonably and logically explained, and all that in a language and style that is pleasant to read.

To give you an example, let me quote a conversation between the ghost and Pilot, the dog - two of the five main characters:

They had a cordial relationship. Like Icelandic or Finnish, "Dog" is spoken by very few. Only dogs and dead people understand the language. When Pilot wanted to talk, he either had to get in a quick chat with whatever canine he happened to meet on the street when he was taken out for a walk three times a day, or he spoke with this ghost - who, by attrition, knew more about Pilot now than any dog had ever known. There aren't that many human ghosts in the land of the living, so this one was equally happy for the dog's company.

The story is, in a nutshell, about a man who is supposed to have died when he slips on the snowy ground and hits his head against a stone curb, but does NOT die. His not sticking to the masterplan sets off a chain of events, some of them simply strange, others dangerous, and all of them leading up to a big showdown towards the end of the book. The relationship to the woman he loves is just as much part of the story as what the dog thinks and does, and I guess I am not the only one who comes to like the dog most of all the caracters.

It made for an enjoyable read, although sometimes there was a bit "too much" of everything: too many quirky ideas, too many strange events, too many completely different scenes following one after the other. Maybe I felt that way because of the slow flow of things described in my previous read; I don't know. Sometimes I just would have liked one thread of the story to be spun out a bit longer, to have a less fragmented feel.

A very unusual, very entertaining book with some very clever thoughts and deep insights, all in all.


  1. This is going on my wish list! Also, just wanted to let you know (since you're a reader and all)... that my first book just came out on Kindle. It's a quirky fairy tale and might be something you'd enjoy. There's a linkie on my blog. xoxo

  2. If you get and read this book, I'd like to know what you made of it.
    Just checked out your blog and the link to your book; I do not own a Kindle and so won't be able to read it, but regardless of that, congratulations for being published!

  3. As always, your book reviews are very well written. I checked to see if this author has a blog and just read some of it. I quite liked his listing of words from different languages. I think that you would like it too. "Dream stange things and make them look like truth" is a quotation by Nathaniel Hawthorne that has been applied to this author.
    Once again, an excellent review!

  4. Thank you, Kay! I was indeed thinking about adding the link to the author's website but then somehow finished the review without it.

  5. I have often wondered when one of the dogs I have known has cocked their ears and looked into space -- what are they aware of? Probably just a smell or sound that I have no access to. So many things we do not know.

  6. Mark, to speak or at least understand "Cat" and "Dog" would probably be a two-sided pleasure... I imagine we'd hear things about humans in general and ourselves in particular that we would not find very flattering!