If you’ve braved one too many supposedly spooky novels only to find the pages haunted by nothing but stale genre devices like these, you might approach The Ghost Notebooks with a certain 'been there, read that' trepidation. But luckily, Ben Dolnick’s ambitions go beyond run-of-the-mill thrills and chills ... Dolnick...serves up a more nuanced account of the couple’s unraveling, leaving us to wonder if their problems are the work of malevolent spiritual forces or a complicated psychological meltdown ... Readers won’t come to these pages hoping for a love story. What they want is a well-crafted ghost story, and that’s exactly what they’ll get.
Dolnick excels at creating a subtle, growing sense of unease. His narrative shuttles skillfully between Nick’s point of view, pages from Wright’s work, Hannah’s curatorial observations, the case notes of the psychiatrist who treated Hannah’s depression and a series of fragmentary visions of everyday life, disturbing in their very mundanity. Dolnick also doesn’t shy away from evoking unbearable grief and loss, far more frightening emotions than those encountered in less ambitious supernatural tales ... the greater mystery unveiled in this powerful novel lies not in spooky atmospherics, but our own failure to connect with those closest to us.
The Ghost Notebooks isn’t a particularly frightening story, nor is it filled with 'horror' per se. It may wring a shiver or two from the reader; however, they won’t be frissons of fear but more of poignancy. This novel is one that will leave the reader thoughtful and perhaps linger long in the memory. It’s a haunting story of one man’s determination to assuage his grief by keeping the dead alive and another man’s struggle to give them peace.