A curious patchwork of autobiography, cultural history and nature writing, novelist Edward Parnell’s first non-fictional work, Ghostland, explores the haunted places of the British Isles as he processes the deaths of those closest to him. Parnell begins, fittingly, with the landscapes of East Anglia, the setting for many of the ghost stories penned by the Cambridge academic and antiquarian M R James, where Parnell himself enjoyed family holidays as a child. James, who is invoked throughout Ghostland, was clearly the source of Parnell’s fascination with the loose collection of 20th-century writers and artists who feature in this book. Their work skews the placid, pastoral image of the rural British landscape, its folk life and lore. He journeys first to Great Livermere, the Suffolk village in which James spent his formative years and a possible setting for ‘Lost Hearts’, his chilling tale of occultism and revenant orphans.
Ghostland continues in this fashion as Parnell roams further afield to Cheshire. Its red sandstone escarpment, Alderley Edge, was and still is a great inspiration for local author Alan Garner. Arthur Machen, an Anglo-Welsh Decadent writer who rose to fame in the 1890s with his horror stories, also