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Chilling family tale

Books | January 2018

Absence By Sarah Wiseman

A remote country house falling into ruin; a son who has gone missing; a pretty little girl who won’t speak; a beautiful mother tumbling towards alcoholism; a creepy childminder with designs on the silent child – the ingredients that make up the bare plot of Absence are close to those of gothic horror.   I kept thinking of the dark fantasy films of the Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (by coincidence, his forthcoming movie The Shape of Water also features an elective mute) or the Spaniard Alejandro Amenábar, who made the marvellous chiller The Others.  Indeed, the author of this book may have had such films in mind. The drunken mother here is a native Spanish speaker, perhaps by way of acknowledging these influences. Absence would certainly make a terrific, edge-of-your-seat film. Enjoyably spooky, then, but there’s more to Sarah Wiseman than things that go bump in the night. The writing...

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