The most disturbing book I’ve read this year…so far

Hello fellow readers. Today I wanted to discuss a book that really disturbed me. I am still gathering my thoughts and I am unsure as to whether I liked or hated this book. The book in question is… the Dumb House by John Burnside.

A brief synopsis:

Young Luke is fascinated with the secrets of the human soul and how it relates to human language. He becomes obsessed with a story his mother told him as a child about the Dumb House, a palace where children were raised in complete seclusion and never hearing human speech. He decided to conduct his own experiment with children and creates his own version of the Dumb House.

My thoughts:

The book is told from Luke’s perspective and I have to say that it was very disturbing to be inside the mind of a psychopath. The book opens where it eventually ends and we go back into Luke’s childhood and his relationship with his parents. From the onset it is very apparent that his family environment is unhealthy. Without over analyzing, I saw that he was governed completely by his mother who haunts the rest of the story. His relationship with his father is almost nonexistent. As he grows older, his twisted tendencies go unchecked (you might even say that they were encouraged) and he takes it upon himself to begin experimenting on animals seeking answers about life and the question of where soul comes into play. His later relationships with other characters are twisted and when he performs his biggest “experiment” I was appalled.

As a human and especially as a mother I was completely disgusted and uncomfortable throughout the whole book. I found certain parts very difficult to read.

The writing was excellent. The sentence structure and language were well done and narrating the book from Luke’s thoughts were a great way to present such disturbing content. I was inside his mind the entire time and I was uncomfortable even while I kept reading. Beginning the book at the end and then working from his childhood to the end was probably the best way this story could have been told. While I would consider it a psychological thriller, it is not the quickest paced book out there. Nevertheless, even with the disturbing content and relatively slow pace, I found myself turning pages wanting to know what happened next and hoping it wouldn’t get any worse. It did.

All in all I found it to be disturbingly interesting though I probably won’t read this again. This is not a book I’d recommend to everyone but if you are looking for something disturbing to read that isn’t as gory as some other more horror type books than this might be worth your time (though I’d recommend checking out my warning below).

Warning ⚠️

This books contains elements of child abuse, possible child molestation, rape, exploiting of mental illness, and cruelty to animals.

If you’ve read this book please tell me what you thought. I’m still gathering my thoughts and can’t tell how I’d rate it but I’d love to discuss with someone.

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Gothic Book Tag

Greetings, all! While I will read a little of everything, my love has always been Gothic Fiction (and fantasy).  For years I devoured gothic type books without even realizing there was a Gothic sub genre beneath the all encompassing “fiction” genre.  I’ve always been drawn to brooding and moody period pieces (Probably the reason Dracula and Jane Eyre are two of my favorite books of all time) As a teenager I read Agatha Christie and read and reread every book Victoria Holt ever wrote under that pen name (her gothic historical fiction pen name) When I noticed a lot of recent activity in the Classics Club (games and tags) I was excited and when I came across the Gothic Book tag, naturally I was over the moon. So without further ado, here is the Gothic Book Tag:

1. Which classic book has scared you the most? 

This is hard because two books immediately come to mind.  In 1984, Orwell masterfully set the scene with intense paranoia and it really stuck with me. In And Then There Were None, there was a growing sense of dread that really affected me as a 13 year old reading it for the first time and I’m just as spooked every time I reread it.

2. Scariest moment in a book?

Again, I have two.  The final scene in And Then There Were None with Vera and the moment when the Martians start using their tripod looking machines in War of the Worlds.

3. Classic villain that you love to hate?

Dr. Frankenstein.  It is unclear whether he is the protagonist or the villain but I really feel that he brought all of the trouble on himself and I was so angry at him every time he interacted with his creature.

4. Creepiest setting in a book? 

It’s hard to beat Hell from Dante’s Inferno.  There are some really terrible images. There is also the lonely island in And Then There Were None.  The Jamaica Inn was definitely creepy and so was the castle in Dracula.

5. Best scary cover ever?

I used to own an illustrated copy of The Inferno that had a painting of people being tormented in hell but alas, I misplaced it years ago.

6. Book you’re too scared to read?

Might not be a “classic” but the book It by Stephen King is a little above my scary threshold. Plus I tend to like moodier stories as opposed to gory, violent books.

7. Spookiest creature in a book?

I find the tripod things in War of the Worlds extremely spooky.

8. Classic book that haunts you to this day?

Frankenstein because I’m still bitter about the way he behaved towards his creation.

9. Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?

The whodunit in, yes you guessed it, And Then There Were None.

10. Classic book you really, really disliked?

I mildly disliked Villette but mainly because of the ending.  I also disliked My Cousin Rachel.

11. Character death that disturbed/upset you the most?

Dr. Frankenstein’s wife and family

12. List your top 5 Gothic/scary/horror classic reads.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt

13. Share your scariest/creepiest quote, poem or meme.

I’m going to cheat here and say the entire Tell Tale Heart.

I had a ton of fun answering these questions.  I realize Gothic fic isn’t for everyone but there’s something about it I just love.  I hope you enjoyed this post and if you aren’t a member already I hope you go check out The Classics Club.

You can find my Classics List here.