Book Review | The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale

In 1938, Alma Fielding had a problem. Objects were being thrown; scratches were appearing on her body; her family began to fear for their lives. Alma Fielding had a poltergeist, a manic spirit that was keen to cause havoc. As war approaches and the haunting gets worse, Nandor Fodor, a Jewish-Hungarian ghost hunter, intervenes to try and help her. But is Alma Fielding all that she seems?

I am a bit fan of true crime, and as this book was advertised as a true crime/true ghost story, I snapped it up! I had also read Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher which I loved, so I had high hopes for this book. It did not disappoint.

This book was so gripping and fascinating, telling the story of Alma Fielding’s ghost haunting. I won’t spoil whether it was fact or fiction, but this book really does give you something to think about and leaves you wondering whether spirits do walk among us. Set in a time post-First World War where people often went to seances to speak to their beloveds who had died too early, the atmosphere is creepy and Gothic.

Summerscale writes in this wonderful journalistic/novel/biography manner that makes you almost forget you’re reading. It’s like watching a documentary, and in fact I would love a film of this book! I think this book could be a little dense, but it is a tricky subject and ultimately Summerscale seemed to want to write about the reality of what happened rather than dramatise it, which I appreciated. There was also a humorous undertone – or perhaps amusing is the better word, with animal spirits and others alike.

It’s hard to review the characters when a story is about real life, but I think the dynamics came across really well, and in fact I would have liked Summerscale to go more into depth with what different characters thought about the situation. It really was fascinating.

Well, do you believe in ghosts? After reading this book, you won’t be so sure!

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