Tag Archives: Horror

The Grief Hole

Award-winning modern horror on everyday evil

Although this might not seem like a Christmas book, I first bought it from the author when she was selling her books at the Beyond Q Christmas book sale that they held a couple of years ago when they were based in Curtin. I bought a copy of this book from the author, which came with a super cute little handmade Christmas cracker and a bookmark made out of stamps, and it sat on my shelf for far too long before I finally read it. Just this year though, I interviewed the author about writing horror for a Halloween special episode of my podcast, and so it was definitely time for me to give this book a read.

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“The Grief Hole” by Kaaron Warren is a horror novel about a young woman called Theresa who works as a domestic violence social worker. Theresa has a special but macabre ability: she can tell how you will most likely die. Increasingly haunted by the spirits of future death that surround her clients, she decides to start taking fate into her own hands with disastrous consequences. Traumatised, she moves away and takes up a job offer from an estranged relative whose daughter recently committed suicide. When the talented young artist’s death begin to emerge, Theresa is determined to prevent history repeating itself. However, when she discovers who exactly she is up against, Theresa is forced to examine her own motives.

This is an eerie and disturbing story that uses a thin overlay of the supernatural to explore good and evil, selfishness and selflessness in an otherwise very realistic world. Warren turns the themes of power and control inside out to examine questions of how much we determine our own futures and how much we must passively accept. She also asks whether our intentions can ever truly be pure, and whether we can ever truly know what the impact of our actions will be. Warren has a real knack for dialogue and for taking the everyday and making it horrifying. She maintains a palpable sense of unease throughout the entire book.

However, this book won’t be for everyone. Although it’s not blood-spattered, stereotypical horror it is very disturbing in its own way. I found quite a few parts of the book confronting and uncomfortable, and this is a book that lingers after you have read it. It is intentionally ambiguous and the reader will often feel like they are walking through a heavily rainy landscape unable to clearly see where they have been or where they are going.

A unique and unsettling take on the horror genre by a local Canberra author, it is not surprising why this book won so many awards and if you’re looking for something a little darker than normal, this would be a great book to check out.

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The Grief Hole

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Horror

Lost the Plot – Episode 29 – Halloween Horror Special

Halloween Special featuring award-winning author Kaaron Warren speaking about writing horror fiction

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Show Notes

“The Adventurous Princess and other Feminist Fairy Tales” by Erin-Claire Barrow
Lost the Plot – Episode 18 – Feminist Fairy Tales
Erin-Claire’s Kickstarter Page
Erin-Claire’s Website

“Capital Yarns: Volume 2” by Sean Costello
Lost the Plot – Episode 25 – Short Stories
Sean’s Pozible Page
Sean’s Website

Sisonke Msimang talking about “Always Another Country”
Sisonke

Australian Reading Hour
Website

Australian Reading Hour

What other people were reading:

  • “The Psychology of Time Travel” by Kate Mascarenhas
  • “The Woman Who Fooled the World: Belle Gibson’s Cancer Con” by Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano
  • “Beneath the Mother Tree” by D. M. Cameron
  • “No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus prison” by Behrouz Boochani.

Dickson Library Works
Lost the Plot – Episode 26 – Book Disasters
Dickson Library Facebook post
Dickson Library website

Indigenous Literacy Day
Website
Great Book Swap

Reading in Timor Leste
National Library of East Timor
Xanana Gusmao Reading Room
Reading in Timor Leste

Man Booker Prize 2018 Shortlist
Man Booker Prize website

“Matilda at 30”
The Guardian article
Quentin Black website
Penguin Books website

“The Helpline” Trailer from Text Publishing
Youtube channel

“My Brilliant Friend” Trailer
Vulture article

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Nagini Controversy
SBS article
Vanity Fair article
Pottermore article

Lifeline Book Fair Theft
ABC article
The Riot Act article

New Harry Hartog at the Australian National University
ANU media release

Man wins bookstore in raffle
The Guardian article

Grimms’ Fairy Tales
Wiki page

Snow White and Rose Red
Wiki page

The Snow Queen
Wiki page

The Little Mermaid
Wiki page

“Trying to Save Piggy Sneed” by John Irving
NY Times full essay

“The Grief Hole” by Kaaron Warren
IFWG Australia

Lostprophets
Wiki page about lead singer’s arrest

World Fantasy Convention 2018
Website

Australian Gothic

Windmill Story
I’m not 100% sure, but it may be “Windmill at Magpie Creek” by Chrisobel Mattingley. If anyone knows, send me a message! 

The Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum
Facebook page

“Tiger Kill” by Kaaren Warren
CSFG 

Kaaron Warren’s Website
Click here

The Black Tides of Heaven
My review

Frankenstein of Baghdad
My review

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Frankenstein in Baghdad

Modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” set in Iraq

Content warning: war, violence, fake blood

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Harry Hartog.

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“Frankenstein in Baghdad” by Ahmed Saadawi is a horror novel that puts a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” by reimagining the creation of the monster shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. The story is set in a neighbourhood in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, where an old woman called Elishva lives alone waiting for her son Daniel (whom everyone, including her daughters, believes is dead) to return home. She has two rather unsavoury neighbours: Faraj and Hadi. Faraj, a real estate agent, hopes to buy Elishva’s large, historical and largely undamaged home. Hadi, a junk dealer, hopes to buy her vast collection of antiques. While waiting for Elishva to finally give up her possessions, Hadi has been engaging in a strange compulsion to collect body parts after the many explosions in Baghdad. When the enormous corpse goes missing, up-and-coming journalist Mahmoud investigates the escalating violence and strange murders that start occurring in the city.

This book started out very intriguingly with a report from a mysterious committee that makes recommendations in relation to the activities of the Tracking and Pursuit Department and the arrest of an author who had prepared a 250 page story. The book then starts from there. Thematically, this was an incredibly interesting story that uses the corpse made up of disparate body parts as a shrewd metaphor for the war in Iraq. Saadawi presents a scathing look at the way war becomes self-sustaining through corruption, greed, revenge and desensitisation. Mahmoud provides an interesting perspective as a character who straddles ethical and unethical journalism. Jonathan Wright’s translation from the Arabic feels smooth and nuanced.

However, I struggled with some parts of this book. There were very few female characters in this novel and the women who were featured seemed to fall within the tropes of crazy cat lady, ice queen and replacement love interest. None of the women have much agency or personality, and this even the violence in the streets and due to bombing mostly focuses on men being killed. This is also partly a horror novel, and while the symbolism behind the corpse is very strong, the mechanics of how he gains and sustains life are very disturbing. I think I probably found the chapters with Mahmoud the least engaging. Despite the fact that there was probably a good reason for his story being largely separate from the corpse’s antics in Elishva’s neighbourhood, every time the story returned to him it felt jarring and dull.

Anyway, this isn’t an easy topic or an easy book, but as my ARC wasn’t a complete copy (which I didn’t realise until I reached the end), I was hooked enough to buy an eBook version and finish the last few dozen pages on my eReader. This is my first Iraqi novel, and it was a vivid and visceral insight into the impact of the war on a city.

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Frankenstein in Baghdad

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Filed under Book Reviews, Horror, Magic Realism