The two ghost stories reviewed here have little in common with earlier ones.
One, Hallow Hour by Caighlin Smith (Boulder, $12.95), was written by a girl in Grade 11 — and unusually well-written at that.
The other book, Apparition, by Gail Gallant is also well-written and has more depth in its characters than Hallow Hour. It’s published by Doubleday Canada at $14.95.
Hallow Hour relates the adventures of several teenage boys and girls at a time after a hydrogen bomb or something similar has destroyed civilization as it has been known.
One family headed by Tai, a girl in her late teens, has been driven out of their village because they seem to be accursed. The other doesn’t seem to be a biological family; an older boy named Kanta, who delights in ghost killing, seems to be in charge. It’s almost axiomatic, the two groups won’t get along.
In fact one of Hallow Hour’s weaknesses is the amount of quarrelling chiefly between the leaders.
However this may be true-to-life as Smith has seen it.
Other defects are a lack of humour, not to mention an almost complete lack of grownups. As the book is referred to as the first of a series called “wur-reality,” it’s to be hoped these faults may be corrected in book two.
Apparition is set somewhere in the present time in rural Ontario. It’s full of old deserted barns, ex-city people, strange locally-born single people and forgotten machinery, including cars and ghosts, as in people who have died by their own hand.
If quarrelling is a recurrent theme in Hallow Hour, tears are one in Apparition. Admittedly, losing one’s boyfriend to an exceptionally horrible suicide may be justifiable; but almost all the other characters weep, too. Amelia, the main character, is not quite 18 and doesn’t believe in ghosts; she’s an orphan, has a “keen investigative mind” and has two younger brothers — Jack, who has one, too — and supports Amelia, and Ethan, who is strange as well.
Matthew, the boyfriend, and Kip, the boy she meets and is really attracted to, further complicate issues and bring on more tears. So does Joyce, Amelia’s grandmother and guardian, who doesn’t believe in ghosts.
The narrative becomes more and more complicated, but all turns out well.
If one could read this story from a detached viewpoint, it would be easier. As it is, the reader is tossed between two or more viewpoints and shaken up emotionally.
So here’s a warning: do not read this story unless you have little imagination and/or strong nerves. Read Hallow Hour instead. Though not a normal tale, the characters are too remote from experience to be involving, as is the background.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at Her new address is: 95 Orange Street, Apt. 101, Saint John NB, E2L 1M5. or call her at 506-693-5498.