Friday, May 18, 2018

Eltonsbrody (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) Paperback – February 7, 2017 by Edgar Mittelholzer (Author), John Thieme (Introduction) (Valancourt Books )

If Alfred Hitchcock had known about this novel, he would have made a great film adaptation of it. The whole time I spent enjoying this novel, Hitchcock films kept popping into my mind.

"Eltonsbrody" is the story of Mrs. Scaife, an eccentric, middle-aged woman fascinated with death. She lives in Eltonsbrody, a mansion which easily can be found in Europe, as well as its surroundings. In fact, had it not been for the West Indian characters present in the story, you would think it is set in Scotland or Ireland. The weather, as in other Mittelholzer's novels, plays an important role in setting the atmosphere, specially the wind.

Mr. Woodsley, who may or may not be the same narrator of Mittelholzer's ghost story "My Bones and My Flute", has arrived at Eltonsbrody looking for lodging. He is a British painter born in Antigua, whose desire to paint the mansion is interrupted by Mrs. Scaife's dark humour, odd behavior and strange doings.

This is one of the reasons why I think Alfred Hitchcock would have made a great film adaptation of this novel. Reading "Eltonsbrody" feels like watching a Hitchcock film nowadays: the horror walks a thin line between dated and old-fashioned, and, at times, it even comes off as humorours. However, this is where Mr. Mittelholzer's talent comes alive. The beautiful language and engaging style he uses to tell a horror story in a darkly humorous way is what makes it, specially if you're a fan of his books, worth reading.

Something I really enjoy about Mr. Mittelholzer's books is how he references his other works of fiction in them. In "Eltonsbrody" we read about "The Well Pit", a dangerous crevasse in the sea also mentioned in "Shadows Move Among Them". We also read briefly about "The MacMullochs", a family which stars in the novel "The Mad Macmullochs". However, while Mr. Woodsley is the narrator of "My Bones and My Flute", they, somehow, seem to be different characters, whose only common trait is their name and that they're both painters.

"Eltonsbrody" can be gory and explicit, but it never falls into the disgusting or cheap kind of horror. There's an interesting idea developed in the novel about "the mark of death" being present on some people, which made me think and question my fascination with death throughout my life.

This novel had been out of print for decades, but thanks to Valancourt Books is back in print. The Peepal Tree Press has also reissued the also atmospheric and spooky "My Bones and My Flute", which is one of Edgar Mittelholzer's best novels.

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