JuliaThis month’s challenge was to read something in your TBR pile that was “different.” I chose Julia, a classic horror novel by Peter Straub that I somehow didn’t read when I was in my horror phase in the 1980s. Published in 1975, it was made into at least one movie, The Haunting of Julia, starring Mia Farrow.

Julia is an interesting read. It suffers somewhat from the fact that Straub, who I don’t think had really reached his peak as a novelist yet, had undertaken to write an extremely difficult protagonist. Julia has only just been released (perhaps a bit too soon) from an institution where she was confined following the tragic death of her daughter. She is unable to cope with the truth of her daughter’s death, and the lie she tells herself, the lie she fervently believes, distorts everything else around her.

Unfortunately, much of this confusion transmits itself to the reader. Julia feels untethered in her world and the reader feels untethered, too. There is plenty of weird stuff going on, but it’s hard to get truly freaked out about it—without a true connection to the world, you don’t feel the impact of severance. Julia drifts, the reader drifts. Magnus, Julia’s controlling ex-husband is a sort of black blot. Even though we see from his point of view, he seems less than solid. Only the ghost, the supernatural incarnation of evil, seems grounded. Shocking and grotesque, the ghost child is utterly present in  way no one else is.

Despite my frustration with some of the reading experience, I was anxious to get to the end (which was…neither unexpected nor particularly satisfying) and I turned the pages quickly. It was a worthwhile read, but I didn’t love it.