Book Review: The Banishing by Fiona Dodwell

10660843Title: The Banishing
Author: Fiona Dodwell
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Publisher: Damnation Books
Published: February 27th 2011
Pages: 182
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours.
Goodreads | Author’s Website

When Melissa first notices the change in her husband – subtle at first – she thinks it may be the stress of moving into their new home. Or working long hours. But soon he turns into something far darker, far more sinister.Who or what is the dark shadow living beneath her husband? What is haunting him?

Melissa must quickly find the answer to these questions, because Mark is changing, and fast. Soon her fight will be for her life, as well as for her marriage.

The Banishing is a dark, disturbing novel exploring the world of demonic possession, spiritual oppression and domestic abuse.

The Banishing tells the dark and disturbing story of housewife and nurse Melissa, and her husband Mark. Although at first he turned out to be everything she desired, and was nothing if not a Prince Charming by the time they married, he is slowly changing into a person she hardly recognizes. This started happening from the moment they started living in their new house, and has grown worse over the passing months. Although at first Melissa is convinced this is just an unknown side of her husband turning up after ‘the honeymoon is over’, she grows suspicious when she sees him whispering to strange entities. When she herself encounters a strange figure in the middle of her living room, she is both puzzled and more and more convinced that whatever is happening to her and her husband, it has something to do with a presence from the beyond. In her search for the truth, she discovers some things about the history of her house that help explain what is currently happening, but are horrifying as well. Now Melissa is forced to make a choice: what exactly is she willing to give up for the man she loves?

The Banishing reminded me a lot of classics in the horror genre, like The Exorcist and Poltergeist, and it also has a lot of simmilarities with Paranormal Activity, a more recently released scary movie. Granted, the idea of a man being haunted/posessed by an evil ghost or demon isn’t all that original. A house in which the owners over the years all end up in the same pattern, that’s been done before as well. What makes The Banishing such a thrilling and exciting read however, is the way Fiona Dodwell handles her scary story, the way she builds up the tension, and how she makes her characters seem both admirable and loathesome at once and manages to turn them into realistic people with their own fears and emotions. We don’t get thrown right into one big mess of scary, but the volume of frightening things we are encountering, increases gradually, building up the fear slowly but most definately. Horror the way it should be, and I had a marvellous time reading.

Melissa is a very complex character. She is loving and caring towards the people she loves, and she has a profound love for her husband that doesn’t dissapear, no matter how many times he hits her, or how ridiculous he behaves. She keeps holding on to the memories of the life they shared before, and draws her strength from the fact she wants her husband back. Although I personally was rather fond of the idea of Melissa leaving her abusive husband, and although she herself knew it was the best decision logically-speaking, she had an instinct that this wasn’t entirely her husbands fault. Melissa’s strength and courage shows when she decides she would rather follow her feelings and instinct, than do what everyone tells her to do, namely leave Mark. I really liked Melissa’s personality, her determination to set things right, and her courage when facing the evil things that are hidden in her very own home. Although, I have question marks with her choices towards the end – I don’t know if I could have gone with that myself – but more about that later.

We don’t get to see a lot of the other character’s personality. We see one side of Mark, namely the abusive, twisted, disturbed and mentally unstable side. We see him talking to dark spirits, doing whatever he can to pain his wife, but it isn’t really him. When taken away from their little house of horrors, he changes, although only a little. I loved that when he took Melissa on a date, he seemed like a different man already, if only slightly. The rest of his personality, the normal, non-abusive, non-insane side, the reader can only gather from Melissa’s trips down memory lane, in which she recalls the loving and caring man he used to be. This left me with a double feeling towards Mark: on the one hand, I hated the guy, especially when he tried to hurt Melissa once again, and I was raging at her not to put up with his crap. On the other hand, I understood that the things that happened weren’t his fault, and I somehow felt sympathetic towards him for being mistreated and practically abused himself by the creature inhabiting their home. I love it when characters give me mixed feelings – that often means they have a certain depth to their personality – and I was very impressed by the way author Fiona Dodwell managed to make me feel about ‘bad guy’ Mark, both angry and sympathetic.

As I already mentioned, the tension builds slowly and gradually, which is always a bonus. It has no use bombarding your readers with one-hundred ghosts or ghastly occurances at once. Fiona Dodwell takes things slowly, and by doing so she managed to make me genuinely scared. Considering I’m not easily scared – although I must admit ghosts do manage to frighten me more often than any other supernatural creature – this is a considerable accomplishment. I also enjoyed the general atmosphere of the novel. The tension, the fear, it didn’t stop when Melissa left the house and went to work. It kept on going for the entire novel, from page one till the very end, and it was both nerve-wrecking and thrilling. Event after event unfolded, the secrets were slowly exposed, and I found myself neglecting my own promise to myself (to only read one chapter, then stdy a bit, then read another chapter). I had to finish this one in one single reading session – that’s how good it is.

Without trying to spoil anything, I must say that Fiona Dodwell adds one giant twist to the end of the story, that is both highly fascinating, and unmistakebly disturbing. I had mixed feelings about the choice Melissa makes at the end. On the one hand, I can understand why she made the choice. On the other hand, I find it rather cowardly, and not totally like the character I got to know. It did leave me wondering for a long while after reading this novel, whether or not I myself would have been able to make such a choice. I guess we’ll never know (unless I end up living in a house inhabited by ghost-like figures and my husband turns out to be possessed….but lets hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon!) but the fact that Melissa was able to make that particular choice, casts a spotlight on what humans are capable of when they venture into the darkest corners of their mind. We are, in essence, egocentric and egotistic creatures, but that some of us are able to make such choices, only proves that the real darkness, the real demons of the world, are hidden within our own minds, and in the things we are capable of when we choose to. The ending was nothing short but brilliant.

If I had to mention one thing I wasn’t all that fond of while reading The Banishing, it would be the relationship between Melissa and her psychiatrist Josh. I get the fact that she’s looking for a way out, and that every form of affection is welcome by now, especially considering the fact how she is treated by her own husband. What I don’t get, is Josh’s behavior. He’s supposed to be the profesional, the psychiatrist, not some twenty-something boy who instantly crushes on his new patient, albeit it’s obvious she has some serious trouble with her abusive husband, and looks more like a corpse than an actual human. I had a hard time believing the attraction between these two characters, and the fact that Josh would be willing to put his career in jeapordy simply to have an affair with a married woman.

The Banishing tells a dark and twisted tale, that will probably reminds its readers of the classics in the horror genre, back when horror was actually still scary and everyone could be possessed by a demon or every house in the neighborhood could be inhabited by vengeful spirits from the beyond. The cast of characters Fiona Dodwell introduces us to, is varied and interesting. The tension builds up slowly and gradually, but it never fails for one single moment during the entire reading experience. The written is excellent, the storyline full of unexpected twists and turns. The ending is nothing if not brilliant, and it will leave you thinking about this novel for a long time after reading it. If you enjoy horror, especially the classic horror involving ghosts and demons, then The Banishing is an excellent choice.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for having me as a guest, and for your review of The Banishing.
    You have a wonderful site here,
    Fiona Dodwell.

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