The Girl From the Well
I read this book, cover to cover, in just a few hours. With an almost three year old and pregnant with my second - it takes a special kind of book to get me that involved. In fact, it has single-handedly ended by several month long reading slump. My only regret is that this novel was not scheduled for release in October so that I could have read it on a cool crisp night as autumn began to set in.
The Girl From The Well had me from the very first page. The writing is just stunning and the way that she talks about death is incredible.
"I am where dead children go. With other kinds of dead it is different. Often their souls drift quietly away, like a leaf caught in the throes of a hidden whirlpool; slipping down without sound, away from sight. They roll and ebb gently with the tides until they sink beneath the waves and I no longer see where they go - like sputtering candlelight, like little embers that burn briefly and brightly for several drawn moments before all their light goes out."
Okiku is not like these gentle spirits. She is vengeful and cruel to her victims. She enjoys torturing those who would hurt children and is very inventive in their manner of punishment. The opening scene of this novel features just such a death. It is creepy, suspenseful and very well written. It was like watching the first moments of a truly terrific horror movie. One of the aspects that I loved was the idea that the victims of these men were tethered to their murderer. Forced to follow him as he stalked the next child until Okiku ends his reign of terror and sets them free. Much like Anna Dressed in Blood (which I LOVED) it was very easy to root for the slightly psychotic ghost who murders people in the most brutal of fashions, which is a pretty fun twist on the conventional ghost story.
The narrative style is very unique. We watch through Okiku's eyes and most of the other characters spend most or all of their time being referred to by names like The Stained Man or The Smiling Man. We only begin to see names for them as they become more important to the plot. We do not even learn Okiku's name until we are quite a ways into the narrative. These adds and extra sense of mystery to the novel as we are not only waiting to learn what exactly is plaguing Tark, but also the sad story behind Okiku's fate. While the narrative style make take some getting used to, the plot features great pacing with lots of scary moments and horrifying interludes. Even as we travel from the states to Japan, there are both small, creepy, moments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and those big, intense, scenes that can leaving you reaching to turn on yet another light.
I will fully admit that I know next to nothing about Japanese culture and mythology so, please, correct me if I am wrong but the background here seems very solid and well researched. I found it very refreshing to read about the folklore of a culture that is so far removed from my own and not just another take on the same old ghost story that I have been reading since childhood. The one thing I did find a little off-putting is that,once they arrived in Japan, there were a number of Japanese terms that were explained once and then brought up again later. I could not, for the life of me, remember what those words had meant and I found the plot slowed for me as I tried to remember or sometimes, flip back to locate the meaning.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I am definitely recommending this one, especially as a Halloween read, and signing on for Chupeco's next book.