Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country
SHORTLISTED FOR THE PEN ACKERLEY PRIZE 2020
‘A uniquely strange and wonderful work of literature’ Philip Hoare
‘An exciting new voice’ Mark Cocker, author of Crow Country
In his late thirties, Edward Parnell found himself trapped in the recurring nightmare of a family tragedy. For comfort, he turned to his bookshelves, back to the ghost stories that obsessed him as a boy, and to the writers through the ages who have attempted to confront what comes after death.
In Ghostland, Parnell goes in search of the ‘sequestered places’ of the British Isles, our lonely moors, our moss-covered cemeteries, our stark shores and our folkloric woodlands. He explores how these landscapes conjured and shaped a kaleidoscopic spectrum of literature and cinema, from the ghost stories and weird fiction of M. R. James, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood to the children’s fantasy novels of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper; from W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and Graham Swift’s Waterland to the archetypal ‘folk horror’ film The Wicker Man…
Ghostland is Parnell’s moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – and what is haunting him. It is a unique and elegiac meditation on grief, memory and longing, and of the redemptive power of stories and nature.
”'Ghostland is a delicious, creepy, gothic gazetteer to a British landscape filled with folkloric, literary and filmic spirits, avian auguries, and natural history and a deeply touching personal grief that speaks to the hauntedness of childhood memory and teenage dreams. Obsessive, possessive, nostalgic, an act of vivid retrieval - this is a uniquely strange and wonderful work of literature” - Philip Hoare
”'Psychogeography at is finest, Ghostland is a personal meditation on the primal power of the British landscape to shape literature, film and television that tunes into the core collective experience of the Haunted Generation” - Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo
”'Part memoir of family to two parts brilliant excursion into folk-horror darkness and literary nooks and crannies” - Roger Clarke, author of A Natural History of Ghosts
”'Ghostland is both haunting and entertaining, echoing with an enthusiast’s love for that which is out of kilter with the everyday; things not quite right glimpsed from the corner of the eye” - Stuart Maconie, Mail on Sunday
”'A marvellous blend of travel writing, history and grief memoir, Ghostland provides not only a seance with the author’s lost family, but also a premonition of his dazzling literary future” - Paul Willetts, author of Members Only, filmed as The Look of Love
”'A skilful and intriguing weaving together, less of haunted houses as of haunted people, including MR James, Alan Garner, W G Sebald and the author himself, in places where the past has left its mark” - George Szirtes, author of The Photographer at Sixteen
”'His is a wonderfully evocative book, creating a sense of place and invoking the power of literature and nature.” - The Guardian
”'Throughout this impeccably researched book, there is…a fascination with figures in a landscape glimpsed out of the corner of the eye.” - Literary Review