on March 1, 2015
This is a book that I read in a matter of hours, and despite being a fast read, it is the kind of book that made me exclaim, "What the hell did I just read?" when I finished it. It is supposed to be the diary of a madwoman, but when I think of such a person, what I expect is irrational and incoherent ramblings. This book is so disturbing and weird that makes me think of a psychotic, possessed killer instead. This book just makes no sense and, although I know that every person has different opinions about the same things, I can't possibly understand how someone can love this book.
on December 1, 2013
This book read like the stream-of-consciousness diary of a woman losing her mind. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I read it, and at first, I wasn't sure if it was fiction or the actual thoughts of someone suffering from mental illness. I thought, there's no story to this, but there is. It's buried in the ramblings. Strange and dark, this book left me with a heavy chill that wouldn't let me sleep even after I put it down. The spookiest part was that some of this madwoman's thoughts echoed feelings I've had myself. It was really frightening because it made me wonder if I was the one losing my mind. It is real horror, and real art. It's the only thing like it I have ever read. If you are a horror fan, this is sure to frighten you, because it's about the darkness that lurks in us all.
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on May 17, 2013
Another week, another review - and another chance to reflect on just how diverse a place the indie jungle can be. Last week I reviewed Peter Labrow's 'The Well', a page-turner that would make such a good addition to the lists of any traditional publisher that I find it quite strange that it isn't included in any such lists. This week's book is something utterly, utterly different.
'100 Unfortunate Days' might never have been traditionally published - not because it isn't any good (it's very good indeed), but because, far from being horror in the usual sense of the word, it isn't even a novel in the usual sense of the word. The story? There isn't really a story as such; and while it is possible to discern some kind of narrative and character development here, you have to dig around a bit to find them. And that isn't necessarily easy, as 100 Unfortunate Days takes the concept of the unreliable narrator to a whole new level.
`This book might not be for you,' the blurb warns us; and while the same might reasonably be said of just about any book, in the case of '100 Unfortunate Days' it seems particularly apposite. The 100 days of the title refer to `the diary of a madwoman', an insight into an unbalanced mind via a series of vignettes and a collection of `days'. These are not necessarily sequential days, just excerpts from a life - a life that is probably as outwardly banal and monotonous as anyone's, but which is, on the inside, claustrophobic, conflicted, and frequently terrifying.
While this may be termed `horror' for the sake of convenience (and to satisfy booksellers, who like to slap a convenient label on things) it is not the horror of ghosts, ghouls, monsters or murders, despite the fact that it begins with a story of demonic possession. '100 Unfortunate Days' is, rather, an examination of a much more widespread, and much more frightening, horror: the horror of squandered life, of soured love and isolation. The narrator is trapped in a life she loathes: `There are days when I can find nothing good in the world and I hate everyone', she says. She is emotionally estranged from her family, apparently friendless, and devoid of any sense of purpose. She talks about the common disasters and disappointments that afflict many of us: getting married in haste and repenting at leisure, being disappointed by one's family and one's own ability to connect with them, and getting trapped in a stifling lifestyle. `There will be a day when you realize you wasted your life,' the narrator warns us; and we, reading it, believe her. And there are other, still more prosaic, pains: getting older, going grey, putting on weight. Reading about them, you may begin to think that you and the narrator have much in common.
But then, and often quite unexpectedly, you get a passage like this: `The devil is there at 3:00AM.' Or this: `You wake up again and again and you wonder if the jail time for murder would be worth it.'
At this point the reader might begin to relax a bit. This is a madwoman, after all - or, if she's not quite mad, she is at the very least suffering from some definite psychological disorder. The woman is disturbed, and therefore nothing like us. After all, we don't worry about demonic possession, do we? We don't consider killing our own children because they're annoying, do we?
But then, on Day 29, you get this: 'Here are some things I would do if I could go back to being 20 years old right now: join an art commune, write a book, kiss more men, kiss more women.'
I suspect that most of us have had similar thoughts at some point in our lives. There are many such passages in the book, which begs the question: is the writer really mad, or is she as sane as anyone else? Is she psychologically disturbed, or is she just less squeamish than us when it comes to looking the unlovely truth in the eye? This is why '100 Unfortunate Days' is disturbing: the madwoman whose diary you're reading might not be so very different to you. She writes about normality, about the things that everyone does and thinks. But here normality is shot through with reflections about demons and infanticide and the Apocalypse, and with the simple horror of life itself, with its disappointments and dead ends and wasted opportunities. 100 Unfortunate Days is frequently an uncomfortable read, and it may indeed not be for everyone. But then again, it might be for you - and if so, you won't regret reading it. Recommended.