The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

The Ghost Notebooks

Ben Dolnick

"For all its curiosity about things that go bump in the night, the most notable features in The Ghost Notebooks are its qualities of light.” —Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire

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A supernatural story of love, ghosts, and madness as a young couple, newly engaged, become caretakers of a historic museum.

When Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe decide to move from New York City to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia, they aren't exactly running away, but they need a change. Their careers have flatlined, the city is exhausting, and they've reached a relationship stalemate. Hannah takes a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, a museum dedicated to an obscure nineteenth-century philosopher, and she and Nick swiftly move into their new home. The town’s remoteness, the speed with which Hannah is offered the job, and the lack of museum visitors barely a blip in their consideration.

At first, life in this old, creaky house feels cozy—they speak in Masterpiece Theater accents and take bottles of wine to the swimming hole. But as summer turns to fall, Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping and she hears whispers in the night. One morning, Nick wakes up to find Hannah gone. In his frantic search for her, Nick will discover the hidden legacy of Wright House: a man driven wild with grief, and a spirit aching for home.

Advance Galley Reviews

This is a wonderful ghost story but not a traditional ghost story. No horror, no bumps in the night. It asks the question; if you live in a place where spirits are trapped, and they show you their lives, and then show you your own future does that future bore you so much that you can't bear to live it? Also, can grief be so overpowering that you'll gladly risk your own mental state, even your own life to set it free? This story kept me spellbound and guessing

This book completely surprised me. I expected to read a horror/suspense book about ghosts. It's not that at all. Which is a good thing. The fact that it was different pulled me in. The writing style and story did as well. I didn't expect the ending and didn't figure out the passages that were before the chapters until the end. A lot of books tend to use the same type of storyline, with the same or similar plot points. This book didn't do that; which was a breath of fresh air. It's a wonderfully written story.

When I saw the title of this book I thought it was a typical ghost story, but it is not. I enjoyed the different perspective of the book and it was very thought provoking as well. I liked the snippets at the beginning of each chapter and thought I had figured out who they were from but I was totally wrong.

Thanks Penguin's First-to-Read program for this ARC. This novel is psychedelic, scary, and sad. The past, present, and future of the inhabitants in one house come together and apart in the medium of writing. It's a horror/relationship/memoir.

A ghost story told from a different perspective. Delightful and thrilling , couldn't put it down.

Full review on Polaroid Prose I've seen a few reviews on Goodreads putting this book down just because it doesn’t fit the traditional genre conventions of Horror and Suspense. But, like… this book is SO MUCH MORE than that. When reading The Ghost Notebooks, I often felt like I was reading two distinctly different stories that were all wrapped up in perfect halves and contained in Ben Dolnick’s novel The Ghost Notebooks. The first half is like a portrait of a millennial couple shot on old school, analog film sans the façade of perfection achieved by digital retouching, and yet, every blemish and imperfection is glossed over with a creamy finish and nostalgic grain. Dolnick gives us a pure, unrefined, raw snapshot of a troubled relationship between two young people caught up in the forward motion of time. The second half of the book is a frantic and riveting attempt at recovering the first. The Ghost Notebooks is like a terrible and beautiful memory, almost forgotten. Nick and Hannah are on the brink of 30; their friends are getting married in uninteresting cities, they’ve traded their dreams in for dead-end jobs, and they are sick and tired of NYC. When they move upstate to the small town of Hibernia to become caretakers of a historic estate, suddenly their lives become anything but ordinary—After a brief stint of small-town living, Hannah suddenly disappears, and Nick launches on a quest to uncover the secrets she left behind. Nick, the narrator, was somehow aloof, funny, ignorant, and contemplative all at the same time. His development from subdued to neurotic was believable and sympathetic. Hannah’s character, told through the eyes of Nick, was straightforward at first and secretive and complex at second glance. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good ghost story but doesn’t care about adhering to strict genre conventions. Honestly, this is a book I will be digging into again in the future. I think Dolnick has some great stuff to say about the nature of relationships, mental health, and anxieties about the future (and about the past) in this book.

Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe live together in a small New York apartment. Their relationship is strained, Hannah loses her job at the museum, Nick's career is going nowhere and both of them are avoiding the topic of marriage. When Hannah is offered a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, they move to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia in hopes of starting fresh. The museum is dedicated to an obscure nineteenth-century writer and philosopher Edmund Wright. There are rumors that the house is haunted and that Edmund Wright was involved in the occult after repeatedly being visited by his son's spirt. Everything seems to be going well until Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping and begins to have a mental and physical decline in health. When Hannah goes missing, Nick's torment and grief will lead him to discover the legacy of the Wright House. The Ghost Notebooks is more of a gothic literary horror novel. It focuses more on the historical events surrounding the home as it explores Edmunds journals as he recounts his experiences in the house. If you prefer ghost stories that focuses more on tragic events with an occasional creepy vibe then I would recommend this novel if not you are going to find this a rather boring horror novel.

I read this book obsessively and couldn't put it down until I saw how it all ended. It wasn't what I expected, but Ben Dolnick expertly weaves a great story with themes of the supernatural, mental illness, the nature of love and grief, and the ties that bind. Nick and Hannah weren't always sympathetic characters, but they were always believable. I wish there had been a final chapter to wrap up what happened with the secondary characters to tie things up more. Thanks to Penguin and First to Read for a chance to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I was surprised how much I liked The Ghost Notebooks! I expected this to be a haunted house story, so in that way it was a little disappointing. However, the author's writing style is so engaging that I found myself lost in the story many times. At once conversational and poetic, the language and format is interesting enough to make the book a worthwhile read. The story itself is rather heartbreaking. Mental illness is never pretty, and in this case it becomes a major theme in the story. Sanity is relative, you might say. Though the title is a bit deceptive, the overall book is decent.


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