Nothing on Earth - Conor O'Callaghan

Genre: Gothic/Mystery
Synopsis: It was a time when nobody called. Early evening, the hottest August in living memory. A frightened girl bangs on a door. A man answers. From the moment he invites her in, his world will never be the same again. She tells him about her family, and their strange life in the show home of an abandoned housing estate. The long, blistering days spent sunbathing; the airless nights filled with inexplicable noises; the words that appear on the windows, written in dust. Where is her family now? Is she telling the truth? Can the man be trusted? Beautiful and disturbing, her story – retold in his words – reaches towards those frayed edges of reality where each of us, if only once, glimpses something nobody will ever explain.


Review: Having heard great reviews of this book, I wanted to read it for ages. After purchasing it, I put it aside due to being on a roll with thrillers, and an awareness that (in my experience of my Irish Counties Challenge), some Irish authors are a bit too lyrical in their writing for their books to be easy reads. However, for whatever reason, I decided to pick this one up a couple of weeks ago, and it was an unexpected delight. It's a short novel, so I tore through 80% of it in one day, having read a few pages the night before.

It's a difficult one to describe. It begins how you would imagine a thriller would begin, as described in the synopsis. However, as the girl's story is recounted it gradually becomes characterized not just by the oddness of the girl's family and their strange living arrangements, but by a sense of detachment from the world outside the ghost estate. The family seem unmoored from the real world, meandering through an undefined life. Beautifully and eerily written, anything seems possible in their isolation. The gothic element takes the form of the aforementioned inexplicable noises, words appearing on the window, and the family slowly vanishing.

There is no real point to this novel, it is all about the atmosphere and getting lost in something a bit different. The ending was very interesting - it definitely raised a lot of questions (none of which are answered) and brought up a very broad range of possibilities in my mind. There was one unnecessary bit at the end, I felt, which made me bring my rating down to 4 stars from 5, but overall this is a really unique, immersive, and enjoyable story.

Rating: 4/5 

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