The Picture of Contented New Wealth is an intellectual horror story set in a creepy old house in the English countryside. Something evil has been lurking in its dark paneled walls for as long as the house has stood, but ever since the Conti family has moved in the presence seems more…malign.
The evil presence soon reveals itself as demonic in nature, no matter how unbelieving the secular family is. Mrs. Conti soon becomes possessed and her young son falls under her power. It is up to the incredulous Mr. Conti to find a way to save his family.
Here is the official book description:
“In the brilliant red doom of a Hampshire Sunset, Brigit Conti can hear a voice behind her ears that is not her own. Bed-bound, and complaining of a rare bone disease that no Doctor can diagnose, her husband fears that the house they have purchased is a portal through which an older, more malign energy has passed, possessing his wife and son. Through their successive deterioration, his secular and agnostic world-view undergoes a metamorphosis, drawing him to a strange man from the hills: the Rector, their unlikely saviour. Or are he and his family merely victims of their own self-serving yuppie way of life?
The Picture of Contented New Wealth is a gothic tragedy set in the nineteen eighties, bringing proper characterization and a literary sensibility to the traditional horror story. Its mix of generic elements and mystical realism deal with the irreducibility of evil and its successful normalization in to our daily and dominant reality.”
This eloquent novel is not your typical haunted house or possession story. Author Tariq Goddard weaves some heavy philosophical and religious themes throughout the novel, yet “heavy” shouldn’t be taken to mean that they weigh the book down. These themes help bolster the book’s story and make perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.
Goddard makes wonderful use of the large house the Conti’s move into, called Tyger Tyger, which, of course, brings to mind William Blake’s poem The Tyger (“Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/ In the forests of the night,/What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”). And Tyger Tyger House certainly does burn bright…with all the fires of Hell! Its long, shadowy corridors, whispering voices, shadowy figures and things that just don’t seem right certainly sent shivers up my spine! The experiences the family members face in the house are downright unsettling, including their son claiming to play with the family’s long-dead cat or their au pere’s horrifyingly real nightmares.
Equally horrifying is the possession of Mrs. Conti. Her husband is so disbelieving of the supernatural that he thinks she is just mentally ill, but after his continued experiences with both the house, strange occurrences and his sick wife, comes to believe in the supernatural. Mrs. Conti’s attacks keep getting worse, her appearance changing along with her demeanor. Her transformation is chilling to read and yet you can’t help but wanting to read more.
I haven’t personally read any of author Goddard’s previous works, but I sincerely hope that in his literary future he decides to write another horror novel. The Picture of Contented New Wealth crawled deep under my skin and remained there long after I had finished reading it. Its metaphysical horror story will certainly get you thinking all the while you cower under the covers!
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