Fiction – paperback; Penguin; 226 pages; 2004.
Agatha and Paddy move into a new house on the south coast. They have a two-year-old son called Max, but Max doesn’t live with them. Instead, he is being cared for by Agatha’s mother. Why? Because Agatha is grieving for the loss of her daughter Rose, who died in-utero, and is having trouble coping with day-to-day life.
While Paddy commutes to London each day to work, Agatha stays at home and begins to go slightly mad. The bereavement, which is a kind of unspoken pain between the couple, is the cause of Agatha’s mental anguish. And in a Yellow Wallpaper type of way, she begins to think that the house is breathing…
Ghost Story by Toby Litt is a harrowing read. It’s a dark, brooding novel with little light or joy to be found within its 226 pages. But its perfect prose, it’s clear-eyed portrayal of a married couple’s relationship and it’s realistic analysis of how bereavement can overshadow life, makes it worth the effort.
Coupled with the book’s preface — Litt’s non-fiction account of his girlfriend’s miscarriages — this tale of love and loss is a particularly heartfelt one.
I wouldn’t, however, recommend this to anyone thinking of starting a family or if you are recently bereaved: the pain in these pages might just be too realistic to bear.