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Summary

In his late 30s, 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.

©2019 Edward Parnell (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"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)

"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 skillful 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

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What listeners say about Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country

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Im not sure what kind of book this is.

This is just sort of a self indulgent list of books and short, unnconnected and uninteresting facts about them and the authors. There's nothing to tie the narrative together.

12 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Magnificent moving and insightful

An Autobiographical guide book to wyrd Britain achingly sad but beautiful it will reignite your love of Britain's wilder places and the myths and legends of its counties it will remind you of books you've read films and tv series you remember and introduce a few of both that you don't . It will cause sorrow but is not maudlin it is magick . The audible performance is excellent too.

12 people found this helpful

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A thoughtful, touching and enchanting book.

Tormented by the nightmare of a family tragedy, Edward Parnell retreats into the ghost stories that entertained him as a boy. Embarking on a search for the authors, places and images from those stories, he travels across Britain, exploring the tales of a host of writers, including MR James, Algernon Blackwood, Lucy Boston and Graham Swift. This is a fascinating and beautifully written book about a man exploring loss, memory, life and death, encountering tales of folklore, horror and fantasy and how and why they came to be written. Though it may not appeal quite so much to non-British readers, this book is nevertheless a captivating and thoroughly absorbing read that not only highlighted many of my own favourite authors but introduced me to several others. A thoughtful, touching and enchanting book.

8 people found this helpful

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Unique and Beautiful

A truly unique book that defies categorisation. It is a go to reference for all fans of 20th century ghost stories and programmes, an exploration of how the British landscape inspires these and a poignant autobiography dealing with loss through understated and heart-rending writing that is more powerful and touching than sensationalism could ever be. A great book for anyone interested in the edgelands of Britain, 70s / 80s hauntology, classic ghost stories and the ultimate fragility of human life. The author weaves these strands together expertly. Although he compares the loss of his family with the ghosts, he has kept their memories alive with his writing and description of the happy times they shared and introduced them to his readers who cannot fail to be touched by the encounter. A significant achievement. Lovely narration that matches the tone perfectly.

6 people found this helpful

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ghost stories, biography and natural world

some great ideas for future reads here. very sad. lovely observations of the natural world.

6 people found this helpful

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A Good Listen

This turned out to be something quite different from what I expected. Yet I found the descriptive passages totally gripping and the quotes from various authors both engaging and encouraging. Now I want to try to read some of them myself. A superbly well performed book.

2 people found this helpful

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Essential reading for modern English gothic

A beautiful book part memoir, part travelogue, part bibliography the book takes you seamlessly thought the greats of English gothic from the late Victorian age to the 1970s. I found myself unearthing a world of writing I wasn't aware of and have since been joyfully discovering.

2 people found this helpful

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A heartfelt tale of literary and personal ghosts

The performance was just right- the correct age and accent for the author, just perfect! As the tale unfolds I recognised so many of the texts and locations dear to the writer--I felt Edward was my own younger brother. He references so many odd ball, obscure film and TV texts that are my own passions: Penda's Fen, Quatermass, Children of the Stones, The Wicker Man- it was great to see Parnell avoiding the snobbery of purely literary allusions in favour of these popular TV programmes from my youth. The description of his brother's death was very moving. Overall, this was a superb audio book which was perfect for a recently retired media teacher.

2 people found this helpful

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Coming to terms with life, death and memory.

I found this book moving, intriguing and informative. Among the best I have ever heard.

2 people found this helpful

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beautiful, eldritch, fascinating and devastating

beautiful, eldritch, fascinating and devastatingly sad. a haunting and achingly sad book. very good indeed.

2 people found this helpful