A review of Convent Crescent by Adam "Pancake"Hollingworth
So, a little belated (I had other books to finish!), but I finally finished Convent Crescent, the debut novel from Dischords Chris Newton and Zowie Swan, and from start to finish it was a fully captivating read!
So here's my review of this fine work of fiction. I have known Dischord a number of years and am fortunate enough to call them close friends but don't let that fool you into thinking I went into this with a positive bias.
I had a fair idea of what to expect from their short film released in 2018 and knowing them for a number of years I expected horror and horror is what I got! From the very first moment Newton and Swan invite you into the lives of the main protagonists of Adam, Lilith and their Grandfather, Bryn, and the spooky setting of The Mordrake. The characters are well rounded and have a lot of depth. Whereas some novels the characters can be somewhat wooden and unbelievable each character has a sense of their own identity who all have relatable personalities and back stories. A lot of detail and research has gone into each character, from the main characters to even those on the sidelines who we have the briefest of encounters with, and they all drive the story forward without leaving things going stagnant. You can tell that Newton and Swan have drawn from their own history and experiences to create this wonderful ensemble of protagonists and antagonists.
Moving onto the story itself what at first seems like your typical "haunted house" tale quickly develops into a very meaty read indeed that transcends time. Some surprising encounters and I love the toing and froing between different eras of convent crescent especially with it being mostly based in 1998. They really bring you to the decade of the 90's and made me long for a time long gone of popper pants, Woolworths pick n mixes, Walkmans, and the era when Oasis were king! (No apologies!)
I don't want to give too much away of the actual story but from start to finish I was well and truly hooked and it seemed with every turn of the page it developed further and further without being contrived or unimaginative.
There were some themes that surprised me too (not really!). Delving into feminism, the broken family unit, and obviously religion has a fair representation. Being written by 2 punks/goths you would expect a political opinion to be slapping you across the face in every paragraph; however, they approach these themes more subtly and focus on the story and character development.
Although my review is mostly positive I do have a few niggles. There were some parts of the story that could have been developed further and there were some relationships that piqued my interest, although it may not have necessarily helped move the story along, it would have been fun and interesting to discover more. The horror of Convent Crescent is vivid, imaginative and sometimes truly horrifying; however, the true "horror" is more within the human condition more akin to Poe or Stephen King. The characters fears, weaknesses, sufferings and history. Exploring grief, PTSD, loss, abondement and responsibility. Newton and Swan tackle these subjects in a very sympathetic way without undermining the reader (as we have all been wrought with these emotions). But, although it is my own opinion, I did feel that some more Clive Barker esque imaginings could have been bestowed upon the demonic and the monsters. As well as the ending, which I thought was well rounded and did not leave too many unanswered questions; however, I personally felt that it was a little rushed and could have taken it's time to reach it's ultimate conclusion. But don't let my personal misgivings deter you. It was a brilliant ending and one that did bring a tear to my eye.
So all in all an absolutely fabulous and beautiful story. This reminded me of Stephen Kings IT, James Herbert's The Magic Cottage and Stranger Things. It would not surprise me if this ended up being developed by Netflix into a series. I am really looking forward to reading more of what Zowie swan and Chris Newton have to offer.
So anyway you can purchase the book, which comes with the album, either through the band, at a show or, conveniently enough through ourselves! Just hit the link below: