Title: The Evil Seed
Author: Joanne Harris
Published by: Black Swan
Something inside me remembers…
It’s never easy to face the fact that a man you once loved passionately has found the girl of his dreams, as Alice discovers when Joe introduces her to his new girlfriend Ginny. Jealous, Alice is repelled by Ginny – an ethereal beauty with a sinister group of friends.
Then Alice finds an old diary hidden away in Ginny’s room and reads about Daniel Holmes and his friend Robert and the mysterious woman who bewitched them both – Rosemary Virginia Ashley, buried in Grantchester churchyard half a century ago – buried but far from forgotten.
As the stories intertwine, past and present are merged into one; Alice comes to realize that her instinctive hatred of Joe’s new girlfriend may not just be due to jealousy as she’s plunged into a nightmare world of obsession, revenge, seduction – and blood.
I’ve seen the film of Chocolat and enjoyed it. I’ll put my hand up and say I haven’t read the book. It’s not really my kind of thing for reading, is it? And I’m sure Alan Titchmarsh meant well last Saturday when he told Classic FM readers that Joanne Harris’s latest book, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure (how do I find the sodding accent on here?!), is full of ‘long and evocative descriptions of France and her food’ but he made me doubt whether I was doing the right thing. You see, I was on my way to see Ms Harris at the SOA’s annual Author’s North Summer Social (if authors can actual attend anything remotely social). Long and evocative descriptions are not really my kind of things for reading, are they?
I have to say that I found Joanne’s talk utterly inspiring, so much so that I came home and finished my ‘work in progress’ which had been doing a reasonable impression of an angry boil for the last month. And she delighted me – being something of a cross between the school teacher we all wish we’d had (though she is far too young in my case) and a sort of Victoria Wood. Were that all authors performed in public so well. Anyhow, before I’m likened to Ronnie Corbett again, what has all this got to do with horror? If I hadn’t gone along last Saturday I probably would never have known that Joanne’s first ever novel was a vampire story called The Evil Seed. That made me sit up a bit, and I dare say you too. It had gone out of print but once she became famous, there was a call to re-release it. And I’m glad about that.
If you look at the reviews, The Evil Seed gets a mixed reception. One reviewer calls it ‘turgid’ – the kind of thing I might, in the past, have been known to say about long, evocative descriptions. I can only say that I loved it. This is a first novel, readers, and of course she’s done things she wouldn’t do now, maybe she privately cringes at parts, but it doesn’t alter the fact that she creates a wondrous, dream-like, nightmarish horror. Yes, the prose is a little more flowery than I would normally praise, but in this case it works and adds to the haunting atmosphere. And the end did make me wonder if I’d had bit too much vin rouge, but that can’t be all bad, can it? I hate tidy endings. Can it be compared to anything else? Well, Joanne says that her publishers hoped she was going to be the new Ann Rice. I dare she could have been if she’d used a lot more adjectives and adverbs.
The Evil Seed. As it is: 5 stars from me. If you like a brooding Gothic horror, I think you’ll love it.
Now, you see, I might just be tempted to a little death by Chocolat…or Peaches…