Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy
Series: Hemlock Grove #1
Genre: Horror | Fantasy
Length: 318 pages
Published on 1st March 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Waterstones | WHSmith
Brain McGreevy: Goodreads
Received from Charlotta for this years travelling book project
A charismatic young writer reinvents the gothic novel, bringing a fresh energy to our darkest myths and deepest horrors in an expectation-defying tale of adolescent deception, ravenous violence, and rumors of werewolves.
The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where some suspect that biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable highschool classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late J. R. Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly, sexy control freak of a mother, Olivia.
As the crime goes unsolved and the police seem more and more willing to believe any outlandish rumor, Peter and Roman decide the only way to save their own skins is to find the killer themselves. Along the way they uncover local secrets and designs that are much bigger than some small-town murder.Hemlock Grove is an exhilarating reinvention of the gothic novel, inspired by the iconic characters of our greatest myths and nightmares. At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.
Before we get to the review I need to give some trigger warnings: rape, murder, slurs, homophobic language, suicide, self harm – did I miss any?
Yes this is a heavy book. No this will not be spoiler free.
When Charlotta decided she would join our travelling book project I maybe heavily influenced her to send Hemlock Grove as I’d bought it for her last year and watched the television series after due to her encouragement.
It took about 10 words for me to become Hemlock Grove trash all over again, and its because of my love for the Netflix show that this probably isn’t a very bias review.
I figured that things would likely be different from the Netflix show, however I can say 100% that Eli Roth truly was a huge fan of this story and worked very hard on portraying everything as close to its source material as possible.
Which honestly made reading this so enjoyable because I was just so excited knowing that the actors chosen were so perfect for their roles.
The mystery of the girls murders and how we’re left guessing who or what is behind these monthly happenings is handle really well, and small events happen here and there to help make you question whether what you and the characters have been thinking is true or not.
It really does keep you guessing. (If you’ve not watched the show)
There are a few things wrong with HG and I think it boils down to three different things.
1. The overuse of slurs (particularly ones aimed at Romani and Queer people)*
2. It doesn’t touch upon Upir’s enough for my liking.
3. There are no (major) repercussions for a character who does some very gross things.
*Only one character, Letha, calls the others (Peter) out on using the term “f****t” and I’m afraid I failed to keep note of whether Peter stops using it after this moment.
But we’ll get to the good stuff now, eh?
The way the story is split from multiple characters p.o.v really helps to unfold the happenings in Hemlock Grove whilst also keeping its mystery. I think McGreevy’s writing is so intense it really captured me into the book.
One of my favourite things McGreevy does in this book is his scene changes, particularly those involving Olivia. For example Roman Godfrey is on his way to see his cousin Letha and before he leaves the house we have an exchange between him and his overbearing bitch of a mother – Olivia Godfrey – and it ends with her making eye contact with him. We aren’t told what happens after this point as the next scene is Roman and Letha. I think this is super important because we already know at this point that Roman has the ability to control peoples actions so the fact leaving out the final bit of their exchange leaves the reader questioning why Olivia made eye-contact? Did she get Roman to do something, or plant a seed of information for him to do something at a certain point? How often is this happening? Its so clever because this scene was from Roman’s p.o.v so the fact we don’t know really highlights that he doesn’t know. How much doesn’t he know?
These are of course all answered by the end of the book, and in fact that exchange is answered in the following scene with Letha when Roman tells her something along the lines of “what only matters is whats best for the baby, it deserves the best care and that is at Godfrey Institute” which is a line we’ve previously seen her father say. Only after talking with Olivia. Both of their dead pan tones and actions before announcing this are the clear indicator that Olivia has her fingers in deep.
Another time we get a good fade to black scene with Olivia is as Dr Clementine Chasseur (a US Fish & Wildlife Officer who previously drugged and captured Peter believing he was the werewolf murdering the girls once a month) comes face to face with her after waking tied up in an abandoned place.
Please note: When Clementine awakens she also takes note that she has been here unconscious fro a few days given that she has started her period and knows this as someone has placed a tampon in her that doesn’t quite fit right. This part really irritated me because I’m sure there are plenty of ways for her to have figured this out, why did it have to be this way? I swear its only because a male wrote it.
After a small interaction between the two, we next see Olivia exiting a river in which she has cleaned herself in, her clothes have recently be burnt, and she instructs Pryce (head Doc of the Godfrey Institute) to do what he wishes with “the fresh one in there”.
This exchange was a key point for me because it further adds on that there is much we don’t know about Pryce – and I think even at the end there is still more to Pryce than we find out – and Olivia. Olivia’s full story is told during the last 5 or so chapters and I think holding it back till the end and after the big reveal suits the story well.
Okay I guess I need to move on from this. But I just felt it was worth pointing out why I felt the lack of information in some scenes worked really well as I noticed that a lot of reviews mentioned they didn’t like this.
My all time favourite thing about this book though is Peter and Roman’s friendship.
(and the fact that Peter’s balls are mentioned 20+ times – I kept a tally)
The friendship between the two is unconventional and full of homo-erotic subtext, to the extent that I’m actually sorry for anyone who reads the copy I annotated as I’m sure they’ll be waiting for the moment they kiss when in fact it never happens.
The two are inseparable and its a bit shocking really when you realise they’re friendship blooms after a girl is murdered and they both confront each other expecting the other person to be the murderer. It blossoms even more when they both decide to work together to try and stop these brutal killings.
One of the last things Peter does at the end of the book is leave Hemlock Grove due to everything that has happened. He doesn’t even say bye to Roman (possibly because its too hard to face him after everything though I’m happy to say its also best he never sees Roman again because if Peter found the out the truth we’d have two broken hearted boys and honestly I can deal with Roman being this way because he’s a uh knd of shitty) and when Roman does find out he acts exactly like one might with a broken heart. So there is nothing you can tell me that will make me think that these two were not in love.
Anyway, I feel like this has gone on long enough and has been kind of unstructured but its not often that this happens. I just really am trash for Hemlock Grove and these stupid boys. I can never forgive Roman though.
I just have to get my hands on the prequel to finish this series