Review: The Word Ghost by Christine Paice

This is England 1973, and fifteen-year-old Rebecca Budde is in love with Dave. After one glorious summer, Rebecca is forced to move with her family to Brightley, a village with a puddle for a pond, and no excitement at all. If only Dave were there.

Very weird things are going on inside their new house, and even stranger things are happening in the village at night. Someone appears to be living in Rebecca’s wardrobe. Someone else is on the balcony, trying to get in. Things don’t make sense anymore as Algernon Keats steps from the shadows, his sister not far behind him. There’s no Dave, two ghosts, a pub, a dog and Alex March, a dark and brooding artist, living in the Manor House down the road, whose interest in Rebecca is both puzzling and thrilling.

This book has shocking reviews on Goodreads, but is one I had bought before I noticed that, so figured I shouldn’t waste my money by not reading it. I don’t think I wasted my money, but from memory, the price was more than I really think the book was worth.

I think I understand why people didn’t connect well with this book- it is SO British. Really British. I can see how that could be jarring for overseas audiences, particularly Americans, or those who don’t know random bits of British culture. I’m sure there were things that flew over my head!

To me, Rebecca read like a 70’s Georgia Nicholson, so I sort of felt at home with her from the beginning. For me, she was a really relatable character, as she’s bookish, sassy and a dreamer, having conversations with Jane Eyre in her head… definitely someone I can relate to! The teen romance parts with Dave were also totally relatable, I’m pretty sure everyone went there when we were younger… I know I did.

I didn’t particularly like the way her character progressed though. She was so gullible and didn’t really change, even when she learned more about what was going on around her. I REALLY didn’t like her relationship with Alex. It truly made my skin crawl, as he’s meant to be nearly 40!

The ghostly aspect was far too underdone for me. It wasn’t really explained in any great detail why the ghosts were all in Brightley specifically. It wasn’t really explained why Algernon was so attracted to Rebecca, or what Augusta’s deal was. I did like Algernon quite a bit- in fact, I think he was the saving grace of this book. The book could have been done entirely without ghosts and it wouldn’t have really affected much, but I wish the whole thing had been pulled together better the way it is… perhaps without the Alex bits.

I loved the family interactions with the Buddes, especially those with Rebecca and her sisters. I loved all the Britishisms and the descriptions of all the foods- it made me get quite hungry! They’re such a sweet, Georgia Nicholson type family, who were totally real.

I think this book has definite issues, and I see why so many people didn’t relate to it, but I enjoyed it for what it was worth. It wasn’t particularly compelling, but I mostly enjoyed the few hours it took for me to read this book. Perhaps if you really like Byron and Keats, you’d enjoy it even more than me!

I think if Algernon had a bigger role, even equal to Rebecca, and there was less of the creepy stuff of the non ghostly variety, I would have rated this really highly. As it is, it’s about a 3 star read, which is better than the average rating on Goodreads but still disappointing.


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