Friday 1 June 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Visitors - Catherine Burns

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. 

Until suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden. 

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side.

What did I think?

I loved this book; it's dark, skincrawlingly creepy and disturbing but so compelling that I couldn't tear my eyes away from the page.  Whilst gathering my thoughts after reading The Visitors, I began to realise how very cleverly written it is.  To stir such intense feelings in a reader is no mean feat but that is exactly what Catherine Burns has done with this, her outstanding debut novel.

It starts with a scream in the night that made all my hairs stand on end when Marion isn't alarmed but instead is worried that her neighbours might have heard it.  In just the second paragraph, Marion refers to 'them' as my stomach somersaulted at the thought of who could be trapped in the cellar.  My feelings for Marion then became confused as she remembered her childhood: a time of cruel name-calling and lacking any real friends.  Marion never seemed to fit in anywhere and my heart went out to this child-like woman in her fifties, whispering her dreams of falling in love to her toy teddies.

Marion lives with her brother, John, in the family home.  As children, John was the high-achiever whilst Marion was the disappointment, but appearances can be deceptive and it is clear that John has a very dark side.  How much of this dark side of John was nurtured by his father is unclear, but 'like father like son' springs to mind as their mother blocked it all out with her little white pills.  Now that John and Marion are older and their parents have died, it's quite scary to see how complicit Marion is in John's crimes.  The big question is: does she know what she is doing or is John taking advantage of her?  When John is taken into hospital, Marion is forced to go down into the cellar to tend to 'The Visitors' and, finally free from her brother's watchful gaze, that's when we see Marion's true colours.

The Visitors is so very thought-provoking as I think we have become a bit lapse over the years with regards to the internet.  When we first started to go online, it was new and exciting but we quickly discovered that the internet could be used to hide anybody's identity.  I remember being very wary of internet 'friends' and being frightened that they weren't who they said they were.  Despite many stories of child grooming, I think we, myself included, have become more careless and neglectful over the years by taking those online at face value; but just whose face are they using?  I would be very loathe to arrange to meet somebody I met online these days as I think more than ever that the internet is a hunting ground for sexual predators luring lonely, vulnerable and innocent people into their trap.  I've really scared myself now but I love it when a book makes me think about things long after I've turned the final page.

The Visitors is an extraordinary debut novel; it is impeccably written with an enviable ability to stir a myriad of emotions in the reader.  I have never switched my emotions back and forth so often over a character.  Very highly recommended but prepare for your skin to crawl as you encounter The Visitors in the cellar.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Residing in Manchester, Catherine Burns is a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge. She worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Moscow Institute of Film, and teaching film theory at Salford University. 

The Visitors is her debut novel 

Follow Catherine on Twitter @C_Burnzi

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