Sunday 22 November 2015
The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb - David John Griffin
The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a dark and atmospheric novel of two halves unlike anything I've ever read before.
We first meet the Stubbs as William is going to The Grinding Sanatorium for the Delusional to collect his wife Eleanor, who has spent the last twelve months there recovering from the death of her beloved son Alastair. Eleanor is delusional and believes herself to be a queen who communicates with insects who will inform her when her baby son returns to the land of the living. Having recently lost his job as a coffin maker William decides they should move in with his widowed father, Theodore, who is an avid collector of insects as well as being a hypnotist who takes great delight in throwing parties so that he can take advantage of women with the aid of his trusty pocket watch.
William's relationship with his father is a strained one, partly due to the fact that he has always felt overlooked because of his father's fascination with his insects. So when he finds out that Theodore has another interest which involves his wife and his dependable pocket watch, plans are soon being hatched which culminate on one fateful evening which ends with the Stubbs having to leave.
We pick up the second part of the story thirteen years later when Eleanor's second child Alastair is living with his alcoholic father, unaware of the family secrets which have been kept from him. When he starts to show signs of mental instability everyone just assumes that because his mother spent time in an institution madness must be in his genes, but just what is going on in the young boys mind?
I loved the vivid descriptions that turn everyday places and things into something much more dark and sinister. Even the characters themselves are duplicitous.
It's been a long time since I've indulged myself in a gothic novel and after reading this beautiful, descriptive novel, I've got the bug to search out another one.
With kind thanks to Urbane Publishers for the review copy.