Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I definitely did not enjoy reading “Winterset Hollow”. Jonathan Edward Durham tells the story of a group of admirer’s of a children’s novel about anthropomorphised animals with a dark horror twist…

The protagonists “damaged” Eamon, “dumb but kind” Mark and “smart and comforting” Caroline visit their idol’s lonely island – and that is where the cookie already starts crumbling: Lots of people visit said island every single year, lots of people vanish without a trace – and there are no investigations, no tabloids reporting on it; nothing…

Ok, so let’s suspend some disbelief – and meet an anthropomorphised rabbit, frog, fox, and bear. Who all speak English (apart from the bear). And throw parties and a lot more…

Disbelief is wearing thinner…

When those animals start murdering the “guests” and a hunt for our three heroes embarks, things get rough: There’s lots of violence, brutality and a casual cruelty to it all that made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

From outright gore (unquotable…) to pure horror which the author seems to subscribe to enthusiastically:

»His death was nothing like it was supposed to be … nothing like anything they’d ever watched on the silver screen or seen scratched out in big, bright colors in a comic book. It was anything but immediate and [he] fought it the whole way, his limbs flailing and his throat pumping out the most horrid, confused moans that any of them had ever heard. It was all so ghastly that [it] proved to be the most palatable part of his last moments. Even the scent of him soiling himself as his life wriggled from his clutch was far more bitter. It was all so incorrect … and each of them knew they would never be able to wash away its stain.«

Describing the death of a human being like that – to me – is exceptionally disgusting and only justifiable in very few cases. A fictional novel is not one of them.

Denis Scheck, a German literary critic, has coined a very fitting word for large parts of what this book consists of: “Gewaltpornographie” (violence porn).

Even if all of this was an allegory on colonisation (which does make some sense) it would only make limited sense because those suffering under the yoke of their oppressors are by no means better than them. I felt no sympathy for any of the characters; I just despised them to different degrees.

Sadly, the writing is very heavy-handed, flowery and stilted as well. The author seems to be trying to emulate older (outdated) literary styles (the Brothers Grimm come to mind) in a modern setting which simply doesn’t work very well.

Durham also takes generous helpings from cheap thrillers: The murderer always comes back at least once, sometimes even twice or thrice! At this point, my disbelief was entirely gone and my eyes started hurting from all the rolling they did…

Towards the end the madness at least grows some method and while still completely icky, the book comes to a somewhat satisfying conclusion.

Three stars out of five because there are some redeeming aspects for this book.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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