Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: EDWINA

Title: Edwina
Author: Willow Rose
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 190

Not for the faint of heart, was the impression I got from reading the blurb at the back of the book. Since I am very much faint of heart, it was with much trepidation that I began to read this book. What a disappointment it turned out to be! 

There was so much potential to scare the reader. As a device, the possessed child frightens people like few other elements can. But Willow Rose seemed to want to tell a larger story about the neighbourhood than the one the title gave us to understand.

Six-year-old Edwina has been in and out of the foster care system, owing to the unexplainable deaths that often occur in any home that takes her in. Unfazed, spinster Marie-Therese agrees to take her home. She already has two children in foster care, a 7-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, Ida, who cooks and cleans the house.

Marie-Therese's neighbours are Thomas and Minna and their two kids, on one side, and unmarried couple Paul and Emma on the other. Thomas takes ill all of a sudden, convinced that Edwina has spooked him into ill-health. In the hospital, Minna comes to know of his affair with an office colleague. Their daughter falls down to her death from the treehouse that Thomas built, and the family disintegrates.

Meanwhile, Paul and Emma come to a difficult place in their relationship. Emma is afraid to admit to Paul that she is pregnant, even as he wonders if the child is his. Driving under the influence of alcohol, his car rams into Minna, as she is walking out of her marital home and her marriage, and kills her.

Marie-Therese calls a priest from a cult to exorcise the demons that have possessed Edwina. Midway through she changes her mind, and asks them to leave the house.

Soon, the weird happenings in the house escalate. Ida is cornered by huge rats, her flesh slowly eaten away by them, and the house burns down, killing Marie-Therese.

There were so many things that this book got wrong.

There were moments that were really scary, especially when the book talked about Edwina, and particularly from the viewpoint of Marie-Therese and Ida. But as the old cliché goes, the scary parts were few and far between.

For the most part, the book was all over the place. For a book called Edwina, there wasn’t so much about Edwina. So all the effect that Willow Rose achieved was undone. There were far too many chapters devoted to the neighbours. The extended chapter in which Paul wonders if the child that Emma is expecting is his was not required.

The neighbours should have had their drama in relation with Edwina. In a horror novel, it was unseemly on their part to go around having normal lives, with normal struggles, completely removed from the possessed girl in their neighbourhood.

Edwina is possessed by a demon. But we are also given to believe that her condition must be the result of some form of mutation that she underwent as a result of being conceived in Chernobyl, as also from the abuse and neglect she received at the hands of her mother.

At some point, the book shifted into fantasy mode; the girl being tormented by the big rats made sense in a horror story but the unicorn that rescues her made absolutely no sense to me. If there was some symbolism there, something rooted in Danish culture, it totally eluded me.

The Sisters of Pain back story to Emma’s life, the fact that Paul had been deserted by his mother while still a child, Thomas’ so-called affair with a one-time colleague, all of these had no place in a horror novel, unless they had also had an interaction with Edwina.

I also resented being made to like and sympathise with Ida, and then having to see her meet with such a horrific end. The Bering twins and their premonition of impending disaster failed to impress me.

As the titutar, eponymous heroine, Edwina was badly shortchanged, with everyone else trying, and being, central to the story.

For someone supposed to be possessed by a demon, there was no account of how Edwina acted while at school. Didn’t the green eyes exude any menace in the classroom? And clearly, Line Peterson, the social worker, is immune to any havoc that Edwina is capable of inflicting.

Marie-Therese’s sudden epiphany, wanting to become a good mother and look after and protect the three children she had taken under her foster care, seems too forced. Why does she get so inexplicably and fiercely protective of a girl she believed was, only a short while ago, possessed by an evil spirit?

The only part that had potential was the subplot of the shadow of her mother’s fundamental religiosity under which Marie-Therese had belaboured all her life, and how she finds herself turning into her mother, but that element was not pursued.

There should have been some amount of closure, even if the book was meant to be a part of a series. The conclusion was no conclusion at all; I do not appreciate being made to read an incomplete book, under the guise of it being a part of a series. By all means, spin off into newer books, but let each one have a beginning, a middle and an end.

This one just didn’t work for me.

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