Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: The Bell Witch: An American Haunting by Brent Monahan ★★

The Bell Witch: An American Haunting2.5 stars

From the blurb: "The Bell Witch took up residence with John Bell's family in 1818. It was a cruel and noisy spirit, given to rapping and gnawing sounds before it found its voices.

With these voices and its supernatural acts, the Bell Witch tormented the Bell family. This extraordinary book recounts the only documented case in U.S. history when a spirit actually caused a man's death.

[...]this book recounts the tale with novelistic vigor and verve. It is truly chilling."

Chilling? Not so much. I just kinda expect malevolent spirits to, you know... be malevolent. Just a quirk I have. So much of this book was about how this spirit would just sit down and have conversations with people regarding what it is and where it came from and what it wanted. There was surprisingly little poltergeist chaos wreaking after the initial start. I dunno, maybe the teller thought we'd get bored with that chaos and terror, and instead wanted to tell us all the mundane stuff about it, like... how it went out of its way to prevent injury or death to some or outright save others. Or when it touched that one guy's hand that time, in order to be "liked".

I had seen the movie, and so I knew how it went. I wasn't sure whether the resolution at the end of the movie would be a Hollywood re-write or not, and so I waited it out with the book to see. And I found out my answer about an hour before the audiobook ended. I could have stopped there, but I'm glad that I kept with it until the end. It didn't improve things very much for me, but I think that there was information in the book that wasn't in the movie, about the spirit's origin and manifestation, and I found that aspect very interesting. Hence the half star addition. ;)

The audio reader was very iffy for me. In the Editor's Note at the beginning of the book, he sounded very stiff and formal, but then when he started to read the story, he fell into this kind of Southern drawl that made me sigh with contentment. Unfortunately, he didn't keep it up. Boo!

I'm not a big fan of audiobook readers who "do" the voices. I usually just want the reader to read and let the characters speak for themselves. There were parts that were very well done, Old Kate's "main" voice, & John Bell's voice were both done well. But then, during straight narration, the reader would lapse into odd accents, or stumble over his words, or pause at inconvenient times (like the middle of a word). I heard something like a Scottish accent, hints of a Spanish one, a little bit of Minnesotan, etc. Every time one of these would slip in, I'd be like...

Yeah. So, this book? Not terrible, but not very good either. That is all.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness. Wow. I laughed. A lot. Throughout this whole review. This sounds beyond ridiculous. Pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to actually listen to the audiobook... I am BRAND new to them, just BARELY started to try them and if I don't immediately like the narrator, I turn it off. I have issues w/ voices...

    Sorry this one ended up being lame!