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The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
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The Grip of It (2017)

by Jac Jemc

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Jemc’s eerie novel has many of the classic horror and suspense elements that would attract any “haunted house” devotee looking for an innovative approach to this well-worn subject. The book’s jacket description promises that The Grip of It contains “palpable terror and skin-prickling dread,” and claims that Jemc’s approach is both novel and “meticulous.” As a long-time fan of all things creepy, I was really looking forward to reading a unique spin on a favorite theme. I was riveted for the first few chapters, and I appreciated some of Jemc’s clever turns-of-phrase. Julie and James are introduced as sympathetic characters, but their likeability wanes as they make increasingly nonsensical decisions. It detracts from the enjoyment when the reader feels compelled to start rooting for the evil entity because the “heroes” seem so clueless.
As the novel progressed, I also began to feel as lost and mystified as the protagonists. I needed to go back frequently and re-read sections to determine which character was narrating a given chapter. Any built-up suspense dissipated quickly in the face of needless repetition and florid descriptions. I kept reading in the hope that at any moment some fantastic and horrifying event would clarify the intentions of the author and provide a satisfying, well-earned conclusion. Unfortunately, there was no cathartic twist to reward me for all the work I was doing to get through to the end. The Grip of It began with great potential, but failed to follow through on its promises of innovation and excitement.
( )
  jnmegan | Jul 31, 2018 |
"But what if those buried, fetid stories are the ones that have bubbled to the surface? What if they're right there, balanced on the edge of our teeth, ready to trip into the world without even our permission?"

And what if you have practically no idea what the bloody Hell you're actually reading, curled up in your sofa, and yet you cannot help being hypnotized chapter after chapter? Because this is what happened with "The Grip Of It". This book does grip you and leave you wondering and when you reach the last page, you're still uncertain but you know you've enjoyed the journey. This is how I felt about the novel that kicked off my Halloween reads.

James and Julie are our protagonists. A young couple that decides to leave the big city and start a new life in a small town and a new house. They want to mend certain unhappy choices of the past and look to a cleaner, more innocent future. Their house, however, is anything but innocent. It seems alive, inhospitable. So far, there is nothing groundbreaking in the plot, the virtue of this novel isn't its originality but its powerful writing. This book is like a good ghost film that we watch again and again, always closing our eyes, hiding behind a pillow in the same jumpscares.

After a striking Prologue, we enter the heart of the action right away. The narration is told in both James' and Julie's point of view, in Present tense, like a voice -over. The chapters are like snippets from the couple's life in the house. The foreboding images are plenty. There is the constant presence of woods and waves, the earth and the water elements, both risky, symbolic and powerful. Voices of happy children can be heard, but they're not seen. Ever. In fact, the town seems almost deserted and the few residents seem to know there is something amiss but are unwilling to get involved. The forest surrounding the house seems to move closer, somehow. There is a constant humming noise, there are cracks, drawings on the walls appearing out of nowhere and an old, weird neighbour who may be an intruder.

James and Julie are very sympathetic characters, flowed and realistic. The phenomena largely affect Julie, as is often the case in supernatural occurrences. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I felt for her and I believe James was a fine equivalent to her strength, no matter his flaws. And there were many. Connie, on the other hand, is insufferable. A nosy hysterical who pretends to be interested in Julie's welfare. Why does every mystery seem to need an irritating busybody? I think we'd be much better without their ghastly presence.

I can't say more and I fear I've already said too much. What is so engaging, even frightening if you like, is the psychological effect of the haunting. The book passes beyond the supernatural thriller and becomes a psychological observation. Yes, at certain times, it becomes a bit repetitive and unnecessarily wordy, but overall it is a very satisfying effort. In my opinion, this is everything "The Upstairs Room" wasn't....

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better. ( )
  kamoorephoto | Jul 15, 2018 |
Author Jac Jemc describes the house in her book, The Grip of It as having windows that distort the view beyond them. That’s very much how this short novel itself feels. I never quite got a grip (pun intended) on what was happening, nor did the main characters. And that’s the horror of it.

Jemc captures the feeling of coming unglued perfectly. The main characters are a married couple, James and Julie who decide to leave their unnamed city and move to a rambling old Victorian near a lake. They think they’re escaping a difficult time in their lives, for a simpler time and place. They’re charmed by the house’s secret passageways and its quiet neighborhood.

Unfortunately for them, the house does not seem to accept their presence. ... Full review at TheBibliophage.com. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
First-time homeownership is supposed to be a dream come true. But in The Grip of It by Jac Jemc, it becomes a nightmare of near catastrophic proportions. James and Julie, a young couple accustomed to the easy distractions and conveniences of urban living, decide to leave the city, where James has proven himself vulnerable to a compulsion for gambling, and start anew. The house they buy is near a small town in a suburban/semi-rural neighbourhood. The forest borders their property and a lake is not far away. Even as they view the house, an issue arises: a mysterious hum or drone that seems to emanate from everywhere at once. But regardless, they make the purchase and move in. Among the first unsettling things they notice is their neighbour, Rolf, the elderly man living next door, who always seems to be watching them out his window. When they approach him, seeking to make his acquaintance, he rudely invites them to leave him alone. Soon after this he disappears. By then the odd occurrences are in full swing: the relentless hum, drawings and stains that appear on the walls, flitting nighttime shadows, oddly patterned bruises that spontaneously appear on Julie’s body. The weirdness extends beyond the house to the forest, where they hear sounds of invisible children playing, and to the lake, where there is a cave with etchings on the walls that echo those found in the house. All through the house they discover hidden rooms and passageways that are not architecturally consistent with the building’s outward appearance. James and Julie suspect a haunting, though neither of them believe in such things. In search of an answer, they begin tracing the history of the house, and discover stories of tragedy and peculiar behaviour involving Rolf’s family. Eventually their mistrust of their own senses leaks into their feelings for each other, and the couple’s relationship sinks to its nadir when they begin suspecting each other of playing a clandestine role in this series of strange events. Jemc’s unnerving narrative is psychologically astute and genuinely spooky. The many brief chapters are narrated alternately by Julie and James in evocative, staccato prose, a strategy that ramps up the tension to a fever pitch. With Julie and James both unable to explain what is happening and both behaving not just oddly but sometimes against their own best interests, the sense of dread mounts. In The Grip of It, Jac Jemc has written a smart and creepy page turner in the tradition of Shirley Jackson. It is also a sophisticated novel, one that explores the breakdown of reason when confronted by events that are truly inexplicable. ( )
  icolford | Mar 10, 2018 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374536910, Paperback)

One of Nylon's "50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"

One of Chicago Reader's "Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017"

A chilling literary horror novel about a young couple haunted by their newly purchased home

Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It tells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture―claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julie and James.

Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, inhabiting the bodies and the relationships we cherish.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:21:59 -0400)

"A horror novel about a young couple who purchase and live in a haunted house"--

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