Book Review

The Lingering by S. J. I. Holliday

the lingering

The Lingering is a novel that I’ve had my eye on since its release in 2018, and it was part of the reason that I chose a ghost story / horror theme for Readathon in October.  I’m so pleased that I’ve finally read this, as I thought it was absolutely brilliant, and creepy as anything!

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

At once an unnerving mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.

The novel opens with Ali and Jack arriving at Rosalind House.  The commune here is largely self-sufficient, and those living there perform whatever tasks they can – growing vegetables, cooking, making and mending etc.  As a community, they embrace:

the desire to live in peace, harmony and freedom – away from wrongdoers and those who take pleasure in the discomfort of others

To move there, Ali and Jack have sold the majority of their possessions, and hope to make a new start away from the demands of modern-day life.  It’s clear from the beginning that Ali and Jack have something in their life that they are trying to move on from – they aren’t entirely willing and, understandably, have their doubts about joining the commune.  Theirs is a plan that smacks of desperation, particularly as the reader discovers (early on) that they paid in order to bypass the usual rigorous checks that those wanting to join the project are subjected to.  I did have my suspicions as to what it was that they were running away from, but I was delighted to be proved wrong very quickly – their past, which takes some time to be revealed in full – was unexpected.

The Rosalind Community Project has been established in the remains of an old hospital / asylum, parts of which are uninhabitable due to the age of the building as well as a fire that caused a lot of damage many years earlier and that hasn’t been fully repaired.  The history of the building and the site upon which it was built come into play brilliantly, as Ali begins to experience some odd, inexplicable events.  While never scary per se, there are moments that are deeply unsettling, and this isn’t a novel to read at night when you’re home alone as I did!  I thought that Holliday handled the supernatural elements brilliantly – it added a wonderfully Gothic edge to the novel.

The Lingering is told from multiple perspectives, including Ali as well as Angela – a young woman living at the commune who is as wonderfully oddball as you’d expect from someone who has fully embraced such a lifestyle but who also has something of an odd fascination with the supernatural.  This is a novel where the multiple perspectives work really well, particularly as the reader begins to discover more about the secrets that Ali and Jack are running away from.  I think that an outsider’s view of their behaviour was necessary to show that they aren’t quite as normal as they make out.

Interspersed throughout are excerpts from the journal of Dr Henry Baldock – one of the doctors at the asylum and who was investigating some of the practises undertaken there in the fifties.  I loved the journal excerpts, which reveal some of the darker practises undertaken in the name of science and medicine.  While seemingly disparate, the journal excerpts are fascinating, and I loved seeing the history of the building become increasingly relevant to the main plot as the novel progressed.

The Lingering is a wonderfully chilling novel that is part thriller and part ghost story, with both elements handled extremely well.  Creepy and clever, this is the perfect novel to read as the nights draw in.  Published by Orenda Books, it’s available to purchase now in paperback and digital formats.

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