Shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize 2020 for autobiography and memoir
Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country is a work of narrative non-fiction was published in hardback by William Collins on 17 October 2019. The paperback version was published in the UK and the US in mid-October 2020 (rrp £9.99 and $18.99).
Ghostland is available in UK bookshops such as Waterstones, Heffers, Blackwell’s and Foyles – and many wonderful smaller independent stores (for instance, two of my favourite book shops close to my own home – Kett’s Books and The Book Hive) – as well as from Amazon, where it is available as an e-book and unabridged audio book (also on Audible.co.uk). The lovely Kenilworth Books should also have some paperback copies with special signed bookplates, as should a few other indie shops.
Ghostland is a journey around the British Isles that takes in Wales, Scotland, the far south-west of England, East Anglia and the north-west, as I explore key sites that influenced writers, filmmakers and artists whose work explores the weird and the eerie – as well as places that have a special meaning to my own story…
From the inside cover…
In his late thirties, Edward Parnell found himself trapped in the recurring nightmare of a family tragedy. For comfort, he turned to his bookshelves, back to the ghost stories that obsessed him as a boy, and to the writers through the ages who have attempted to confront what comes after death.
In Ghostland, Parnell goes in search of the ‘sequestered places’ of the British Isles, our lonely moors, our moss-covered cemeteries, our stark shores and our folkloric woodlands. He explores how these landscapes conjured and shaped a kaleidoscopic spectrum of literature and cinema, from the ghost stories and weird fiction of M. R. James, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood to the children’s fantasy novels of Alan Garner and Susan Cooper; from W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn and Graham Swift’s Waterland to the archetypal ‘folk horror’ film The Wicker Man . . .
Ghostland is Parnell’s moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – and what is haunting him. It is a unique and elegiac meditation on grief, memory and longing, and of the redemptive power of stories and nature.
Praise for Ghostland
‘Edward Parnell’s Ghostland is a journey into ghosts of all kinds – the landscape yarn, the frightening 1970s child-safety advert, haunted ghost-story writers – the cancer hospital. Part memoir of family to two parts brilliant excursion into folk-horror darkness and literary nooks and crannies, almost every page delighted me in some way, fed me with some detail to think about. Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant meets Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, I highly recommend it.’
Roger Clarke, author of A Natural History of Ghosts
‘The book is an account of the wraiths and apparitions on the page, but also a tender consideration of how our experience is shaped and enriched by our encounters with life’s real ghosts.’
Mark Cocker, The Spectator
‘In Ghostland the English writer Edward Parnell has created a composite work that blends autobiography, family chronicle, travel journal, a birdwatcher’s life list, a photo album and an introduction to some masters of the British ghost story. This may seem an improbable combination, except to readers of W.G. Sebald, the writer who obviously inspired Parnell. Sebald’s books, especially The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz, are similar genre-slippery explorations of spiritual desolation.’
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
‘a wonderfully evocative book, creating a sense of place and invoking the power of literature and nature.’
‘A journey through the landscapes of the British ghost story, as Edward Parnell ventures out to Britain’s moorlands, woods, cemeteries and remote shores in search of the ghosts go authors such as M. R. James, Arthur Machen and William Hope Hodgson. Robert Burns and The Wicker Man also get a look in along the way. It’s a journey that takes him into his own childhood and circles around his own grief. The result haunts like a glimpse of something seen out of the corner of your eye.’
‘Ghostland is a delicious, creepy, gothic gazetteer to a British landscape filled with folkloric, literary and filmic spirits, avian auguries, and natural history and a deeply touching personal grief that speaks to the hauntedness of childhood memory and teenage dreams. Obsessive, possessive, nostalgic, an act of vivid retrieval – this is a uniquely strange and wonderful work of literature.’
Philip Hoare, author of the Samuel Johnson Prize-winning Leviathan
‘Ghostland is both haunting and entertaining, echoing with an enthusiast’s love for that which is out of kilter with the everyday; things not quite right glimpsed from the corner of the eye…’
Stuart Maconie, broadcaster and author
‘a beguiling mix of memoir, travelogue, nature writing, and a literary journey through the life and work of writers with a penchant for the supernatural.’
Monocle on Culture
Benjamin Myers, author of The Gallows Pole, in his round-up of his favourite books of 2019
‘Part travelogue, part memoir, part guide to the best in British horror writing, this is an elegantly written book that goes beyond merely the merely spooky into meditations on grief, memory and longing.’
The New European
‘In writing this book Edward Parnell has drawn his lost family together by telling ghost stories, embedding his mother, father and older brother on the pages with anecdotes, memories and photographs. In paying such close attention to ghosts, he ultimately lays some of them, too.’
Susan Owens, Times Literary Supplement
‘I love nothing more than a book that defies genre and this is one to make booksellers and librarians scratch their heads. Is it literary criticism? Travelogue? Family memoir? In the end, when a book is as subtle, moving and original as Ghostland, the label scarcely matters.’
Diane Setterfield, author of Once Upon a River
‘Ghostland is a skilful and intriguing weaving together, less of haunted houses as of haunted people, including M. R. James, Alan Garner, W. G. Sebald and the author himself, in places where the past has left its mark.’
George Szirtes, poet and translator, winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry
‘With great lyrical power, he carries us by astral plane to bewitched backwoods from Alloway in Ayrshire to Zennor in Cornwall’
Derek Turner, Country Life magazine
‘Psychogeography at is finest, Ghostland is a personal meditation on the primal power of the British landscape to shape literature, film and television that tunes into the core collective experience of the Haunted Generation.’
Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo
‘Edward Parnell’s striking Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country is part literary journey, part memoir, a search for spiritual consolation.’
Erica Wagner, Financial Times
‘A marvellous blend of travel writing, history and grief memoir, Ghostland provides not only a seance with the author’s lost family, but also a premonition of his dazzling literary future.’
Paul Willetts, author of Members Only (filmed as The Look of Love)