(Review) Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

grief cottage

Publisher and Publication Date: Bloomsbury. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 336.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.


Marcus Harshaw, after the death of his mother, moves in with his Aunt Charlotte. She has a small house on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Aunt Charlotte is a painter. She is a loner. Marcus is 11 years old. At the beginning of the story, the first sentence of chapter two:

Whenever I try to crawl back into the skin of that boy Aunt Charlotte suddenly found invading her precious solitude, a boy who was neither a charming child nor a promising young man, I am surprised that after living alone by choice for so long she was able to tolerate my company as well as she did. Page 6.

Marcus is telling us his story as an adult, he is reflecting back on this period in life. He is the narrator. —-Don’t forget this point as I will refer to it in the “My Thoughts” section.
It is early summer when Marcus begins living with Aunt Charlotte. She is kind to him but with an awkwardness. She never had children, and he has never met her before, he has only “heard” stories about the reclusive Aunt Charlotte.
Aunt Charlotte tells Marcus about a battered old cottage “at the south end of the beach.” It has been nicknamed “grief cottage.” Aunt Charlotte has painted this cottage several times. She encourages Marcus to go have a look.
Marcus’s visits to the cottage become his primary focus; and he meets a ghostly friend who may or may not be a good influence.

My Thoughts:
One of the points I do not like about the book is whether Marcus is telling us his story from the perspective of an 11 year old or from the perspective of an adult? If the perspective is age 11, Marcus is an old soul, very old soul. He is not the typical boy of 11. He spends a great deal of time thinking (obsessing) about people. People from his past or present. He is also a loner. He does not mention sadness, but his actions show sadness, anger, and a mental instability. He does not seek out kids his own age to hang around. He often thinks of the one friend he had and their violent ending. This point about the perspective leads me to believe this is not a believable story. I feel this is fiction a bit too far.

A second point about the story is whether the ghost is really a ghost or is this a fixation for Marcus? Marcus is grieving the death of his mother. He has no other family but Aunt Charlotte. He has lived a difficult life. Is this a ghost or is it all in Marcus’s mind?

Marcus has a history of violence. This is apart of the story but not in a way that helps him, it is another aspect of who he is.

The story is slow. It has few characters. The spotlight holds bright on Marcus.

What kept me reading till the end is I felt sorry for Marcus. I wanted to know what became of this strange and sad boy.



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