ghost in the electric blue suit

ghost in the electric blue suit//wanderaven

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit  (aka The Year of the Ladybirdin the UKby Graham Joyce

Graham Joyce is a British writer typically described as a horror writer.

Don't approach The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit thinking it will be horror. It's more of a bildungsroman, and yet another book seemingly perfect to read in the late summer.

I've read two previous books by Joyce: The Silent Land and Some Kind of Fairy Tale. I don't think I would consider Some Kind of Fairy Tale a horror novel, though I suppose The Silent Land certainly qualifies as one. The cover for The Year of the Ladybird (title in the UK) describes this novel as a ghost story, and I'm not sure that I wholly agree with that either, unless you venture into the definition of a ghost story as being one where the protagonist revisits his memories and past, and is haunted by his actions and by the actions of those around him. Because the events in this novel could be seen as either supernatural or caused by mental distress/imagination, I categorize it within the realm of magical realism.

Graham Joyce portrait

Having read and enjoyed the first two novels, I was excited when Doubleday Books gave me the opportunity to read Ghost a few weeks early.  Despite this being my third novel by him, I've actually never looked Joyce up, and didn't really know much about him. I've discovered that he grew up in a rural mining town in England, "a gritty, unlovely place" (his words), and so I don't find it too surprising that he feels that Ghost is particularly meaningful to him. I'm also not surprised (but pleased) by his characterizations of the rough characters who can emerge from these worlds.

David, the protagonist in this story, encounters any number of frightening and intriguing characters when he takes up a job in an English seaside resort town. I do wish the publisher hadn't included within the synopsis David's motivation for going to the resort, despite his mother's admonitions. The book itself attempts to keep the reader in the dark for a while, but because I already read about it in the synopsis, when strange things begin to happen to David, I already know why, and how it's connected to him. I think the story would've unfolded better if this information had been left out of the synopsis (so if you're interested in reading this novel and can avoid reading the synopsis/cover, I would advise you to do so).

year of the ladybird

I've seen other reviews of this book wherein in seems the reviewer is marking it down for not being horror-ish or ghostly enough. Sometimes this is because they've gone in with expectations of what they already know of Joyce's previous writing, and sometimes they (as I somewhat did) felt betrayed by the synopsis. Because I went in knowing it wasn't a horror novel like Fairy Tale, I didn't have an issue with this.

I did have an issue with one particular element in the book, and that was when at least one time in the narrative, the protagonist came to understand something... but then doesn't share this knowledge with the reader. When a story is told from the first person point of view, and that character learns something about the challenge he's facing, I do find it irritating as a reader when that information isn't also shared with me (unless he's being an unreliable narrator, which is different, and not the situation with this story).

Other than that, I very much enjoyed The Ghost in The Electric Blue Suit (I like the UK title better, but ladybird doesn't work with a US audience). Ladybird is the UK's name for what, in the US, we call a ladybug. Ladybugs are a magical, then creepily insidious, addition to the storyline and I was intrigued (and a bit horrified) to discover that Joyce based this on a true event during the summer of his youth, when there was actually a ladybug invasion on the coasts of England.

I've been lucky this (disgustingly hot) summer to be somewhat comforted by a a couple of novels that just set the perfect tone for the season. Ghost sympathizes with both the magical and the annoying elements of living seaside. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, at least concerning one of the threads, but it was a minor annoyance.  Joyce is definitely moving up my list of authors for whom I keep a particularly sharp eye out.