A Good and Happy Child, By Justin Evans

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The Independent Culture

George Davis cannot bear to touch his newborn son, so he visits a psychoanalyst. The analyst prompts him to remember his own childhood, and he writes a series of notebooks about when he was 11, and his father had just died, and an invisible friend came to console him...

This is a novel that pulls the reader in before they are even sure what kind of story they are reading – is it a psychological thriller about the lifelong effects of childhood trauma, or a tale of demonic possession? Justin Evans artfully maintains the uncertainty, but for me this is best read as an authentic, full-blooded, old-fashioned ghost story.

Parts are genuinely eerie; Evans evokes that special frisson that only the haunted child can produce, a fizzing combination of pity and fear. The setting and social milieu – a community of academics in 1980s small-town America – are expertly brought to life. The writing is insistent and insidious, and the twists and turns of the plot, as well as sympathy for the confused and terrorised George, will have you staying up late. And going to bed in a decidedly jumpy frame of mind.