Filled with Ghosts by Karen Little

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‘We all want to tell our story and be fascinated by ourselves’

Filled with Ghosts is a great surrealist novella, set in southern Spain. It is told from several perspectives and by interweaving their lives the narrative reveals their deepest desires, fears and secrets. I wasn’t sure how to review this, there is so much to it so I decided to break it down. There are other characters but I thought I’d stick to the main and the most interesting ones in my opinion, as they take up the largest portions of the book.

Firstly we have Diana, an artist who knows all about Miguel’s depravity and feels bound to him, even helping hide the evidence. She’s an artist and uses anything and everything for her work.

Miguel drinks too much, does drugs and is angry at the world. He needs to have control over all the women in his life, believing he’s irresistible. While he’s with Diana, he has an affair with Catalina, a wealthy woman who was friends with Diana. Catalina becomes pregnant and Miguel marries her for her money. When Catalina dies (or is she killed?) things start to shift and change.

Next up we have Pilar, Miguel’s kleptomaniac, drug smuggling, hoarding mother. She’s my personal favourite because she exhibits this twisted sense of common sense and motherly duty. For example, how bluntly she considers that police won’t check a child’s teddy for forbidden drugs.

Tila is a character I’m conflicted on. I love her descriptions, the detailed yet blurry way she sees the world, but it can also make for a confusing read at times. She slips between reality and visions, as she has psychotic episodes. She becomes obsessed with Helena after buying snake oil from her, believing it to have cured some of her problems.

These multiple narratives each have a strong distinctive voice, however when they slip into dreaming or deep thoughts it becomes clear they are all seeking a way to escape. There is a vivid beauty in the novel, the way in which Karen Little writes is very poetic. I can smell the moss in the woods where Miguel came across those two men and almost taste the plaster dust as Diana’s studio falls down around her. The exploration of human faults and vices alongside lyrical and beautiful settings create a compelling read. However at times it’s hard to stay untangled in the web of these people’s lives and at a few points I was a little distracted or confused as to where I was in the book and had to go back and check just to be sure.

I don’t want to give away too much, and I hope I haven’t, as this is a novel you need to read for yourselves to become fully immersed in the lives of these Spanish residents.

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