Ever read a book that makes you emotionally hurt, but you are not sure if in a good or bad way?
Happens every so often to me. And when it does, I know I have either read one of the most amazing things ever, or the biggest piece of crap ever written. Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist by David Almond (with illustrations created by Dave McKean) was one of those books.
I was a bit confused about the theme of this book due to the fact you can take things literally or metaphorically. I would need at least a second read to pick up what was missed the first time. Then even a third to process it. This is not a book/read for a casual reader or one who is prone to being sensitive to mature subjects. Almond deals with everything from religion to sexuality, to friendship and so much more I am not sure I picked it all up. There is so much going on that 80 pages feels like 800 at times and yet, at the same time, only 5. I was flying through it when I realized I had no idea what the last few pages were about. While there are no natural stops, you might need to make some.
The artwork fits the chaotic nature of the book, being the only fit for the text. They can be grotesque and yet, there is something beautiful about them. They are sepia and lack almost any real color other than an old school setting (the story is set late 1960’s in England which colors the language (soccer is football; sex is shag, etc). They add to the fact that the book is not a casual, fun “beach read” but something that will be experienced by each reader in their own unique way.
The plot I left for last as the title pretty much says it all. There is a character named Joe Quinn and he has a poltergeist. When you read the book, it is up to you to decide if the poltergeist is real or just the “internal struggle” Joe and his family is going through. However, the part that you don’t see from the title is the crisis the narrator is going through. The narrator is a kid named Davie. He, at first, is the skeptic, but when he finally sees the results of the poltergeist, he becomes …. Well that’s up to you reader. Does Davie’s faith give him insights? Does it make him less of a believer? Is the poltergeist real or the torture Joe and his family is going through? Or is Davie projecting something real or not? There are only a handful of characters (Davie and his mother, Joe and his parents, a priest and Davies friend) but this cast has a lot to say or not say as one (or three depending on how you count/what you believe) of the biggest influences to the story never officially says a word “on camera.” Real life events in Almond’s own life creep into Davie’s world. I wish I knew if reading the introduction first is a good thing or not. It does set up things at bit but also put me on a path that might not have happened had I saved it for last
And to give you the reason for the title of this review, as I was only a few pages in, my front door slowly opened. Now it was windy, and the door is prone to opening even if there is no breeze (old house) but to happen just then? Well timing is everything and I did find this book I think at the right time to appreciate it.