The Haunting of Alma Fielding – Kate Summerscale

Published by: Bloomsbury
Pages: 352
Date released: 01/10/2020
Date read: 22/10/2020

London, 1938.

In the suburbs of the city, an ordinary young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves, eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a terrapin materializes on her lap. Nandor Fodor – A Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research – reads of the case, and hastens to the scene of the haunting. But when Fodor starts his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems. By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, he finds a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed. With rigour, daring and insight, the award-winning pioneer of non-fiction writing Kate Summerscale shadows Fodor’s enquiry, delving into long-hidden archives to find the human story behind a very modern haunting.

This book was purchased very much on impulse. I had seen a few reviews in magazines and whatnot, but I didn’t actually know what it was about. I actually thought it was a fiction, a novel, a ghost story. So it took me a while to build up the courage to actually start reading it as I’m a wuss when it comes to scary things, and so I was too frightened to open it up.

But once I took the plunge and started it, I couldn’t put it down. I am actually quite a spiritual person and believe in ghosts, having felt the presence of grandparents and my own father after their passing. But I know it’s hard to persuade anyone who doesn’t believe in it, to believe in it. Yet Nandor Fodor’s investigation into Alma Fielding’s psychical goings-on would be enough to persuade even the biggest sceptic.

In terms of the writing, it can seem a bit disjointed at times. This is written from Fodor’s own notes and there does, at times, seem to be two trains of thought happening simultaneously, and there’s a lot of having to reference to notes, but it didn’t detract too much from the overall reading.

And for someone who was apprehensive about reading it in case it was scary, it turns out it really wasn’t. I didn’t find the idea of a poltergeist frightening at all. Some of the things it appeared to be doing were a bit scary, but if you can get into the psychological mindset of there being life after death, then personally, I think it’s almost comforting.

I highly recommend it and I will definitely look into Summerscale’s other works.

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