The Red Tree - Caitlín R. Kiernan I've been meaning to try a book by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I chose this one because I need a novel with "Red" in the title for a reading challenge. We Goodreads people pick books for the stupidest reasons, don't we?


So I finished the novel and I'm not sure if this is typical Kiernan. It has many of the traits I've been warned about including the wandering off-topic and obligatory lesbian sex. But it reads like more of a tribute to a style of horror story that might be described "Unreliable narrator becomes obsessed with strange phenomena / environment". The tribute is well intended as Kiernan quotes many references to this "sub-genre" including Edgar Allen Poe, Shirley Jackson, and even the great under-appreciated short tale "Canavan's Back Yard" by Joseph Payne Brennan which has many similarities to The Red Tree. The book is represented as a last memoir of a novelist as she writes in seclusion in a Rhode Island farm. She in turn finds a manuscript of a professor researching the history of the farm and, in specific, a red oak tree that has a history of strange happenings. There is a very slow build-up of events and we explore the events through the complex and troubled mind of the narrator. This slow build-up is what makes this novel so engrossing. It doesn't try to shock and the scary parts are more eerie then terrifying. It clearly owes some of this to Jackson's Haunting of Hill House and the vintage atmospheric ghost tales of Machen and Blackwood. The Red Tree remains a first rate psychological horror story from start to finish. Whether it is typical of Kiernan or not, it is certainly written with the hands of a master and I will be seeking more books by this author.