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 My soul to keep by Judith Hawkes

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PostSubject: My soul to keep by Judith Hawkes   Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:44 pm

Story: ****
Characters: -
Writing: ***
That makes two stars overall.


After I had finished "Julian's House", I wanted to read some more stuff by Judith Hawkes. "My soul to keep" is another ghost story, but with an entirely different feel to it.

The story is rather simple: Nan from New York City inherits her grandmother's house in Tennessee. She moves there with her little son Stephen, who is - quite frankly - one of these annoyingly whiny children who keep running into things and bawling their eyes out every other page. At age eight, Stephen still has an imaginary friend, Woody.

Too bad Woody turns out to be anything but imaginary. He is the ghost of Nan's best childhood friend Tucker who drowned because she didn't help him, and who now wants to take her child away from her. (At least, that is what they say on most pages - on some others the ghost "doesn't know what he's doing" because he "doesn't have any real consciousness", and sometimes he isn't bad at all but a poor little boy who wants a playfellow, and once he isn't even a ghost anymore but only a "memory".)

To cut a long 400-page-story short, she rescues her son and all is well. Sort of.

The ghost story in itself was rather nice, though nothing to get worked up about. It had all the usual features: Things moving by themselves, a friendship ring that turns up out of the blue, disturbing voices that interrupt the flow of the text.

The characters were as flat as possible, and sometimes contradicting their own characterization. The cast is:
Nan - described as a total workaholic who wants to spend more time with her son. Throughout the entire novel, she never does any real work, not even cleaning the house, and isn't particularly tempted to spend any time with her son, either. Instead, she shags her cousin Sky.
Sky - masculine, good-looking, a "hillbilly" (Hawkes LOVES this word!), and a particularly good choice to sleep with on just about every other page of the novel.
Stephen - eight years old, constantly either crying or about to cry, persistently getting into trouble and generally much in the way of all characters concerned.
Gabe - Stephen's father, a skeptic who thinks Stephen is a "typical boy" (which also explains why Nan is so keen on shagging someone as un-sissy-like as possible). Character is entirely pointless since he does nothing but sit around arguing with Nan.
Flutie - very old, very strange, apparently mentally challenged but gifted with second sight (who would've guessed?).
Lucy - old relative of Nan, who likes her although I've never seen anyone as intrusive and bossy as Lucy. Thankfully Woody (a.k.a. Tucker) kills her off about halfway through. (So much for being a nice boy who seeks a playfellow.)
Cooper - the only one who truly believes in ghosts right from the beginning, and who is unbelievably annoying about it.

Thankfully the story is nice... The characters wouldn't have cut it by themselves.

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