The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T. Kelly is a weird book, an attempt to recreate the Gothic Novel but with a more intelligent, questioning nature.
Three respected Scottish doctors – psychiatrist Steve Hartford, paediatric surgeon Grey Lochran and cosmetic surgeon Robert Forrest – have been close friends since their Edinburgh boyhoods, and now live handsomely in suburban London. But for each, midlife has brought certain discontents, especially for Forrest, a reformed womaniser who broods over his fading looks and the departure of his beautiful younger girlfriend.
When Dr Forrest goes missing one summer evening and fails to return, Lochran and Hartford are alarmed by the thought of what might have befallen their friend. The police can find no evidence of foul play, but the two doctors resolve to conduct their own investigation.
Soon, however, Lochran and Hartford find themselves bedevilled by bizarre, unnerving events, and the attentions of menacing strangers. Robert Forrest, they come to realise, has remained closer than they could ever have imagined…
I’m not entirely sure it works. Oh, plenty of ideas are presented and discussed within the text, but you are frequently hammered with them. And the dread, the melodrama, the creeping horror that should be present in a Gothic Novel simply, well, isn’t.
The writing isn’t all that great either – often ham-handed, confusing. The characters all sound the same. If you’re going to write a novel where you have everal points of view, you should try to make sure that they don’t all sound like the same person. I was confused between the characters quite often – even main characters. I would assume I was in the POV of Grey, when I was in fact in Stevens, and vice versa. I could perhaps forgive that if the prose itself wasn’t just so bland. The thing is, there is nothing wrong with basic, workmanlike prose that tells you a story simply and plainly. There is a lot wrong with dull, bland prose that seems to think it’s poetic and grand.
Once more I’m confined to Blakedene overnight, but this time not the fault of my bad timekeeping, rather because of the cataclysmic weather that befell us late this afternoon.
It’s full of this stuff. Pompous, overbearing, dull.
It’s a shame because the story itself is dynamite. In other hands it could have been anything from a true, melodramatic Gothic Novel, a tense thriller, or a slow, poetic tragedy, and I would have loved it. But I finished feeling let down by the book. I’m glad I bought it from a charity shop. I only wasted 50p as opposed to the RRP of 12.99.
Can we talk a little bit about the sexism? I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be an critical examination of typical ‘mild’ misogyny or if it was actually a sexist-as-hell book, but as the owner of a uterus I came away feeling really uncomfortable and unpleasant because of the way women were portrayed in the book. It’s a subtle feeling and one I’m struggling to examine properly, but there jsut seemed to be this overriding current of women as ‘other’, as victims, neurotics or destructive forces that I found very distasteful.