This novel, Kemp’s third, seems to defy genres, inspired as it was by such differing works as Alice in Wonderland, The Yellow Wallpaper and Mrs Dalloway. Ghostingtackles the subjects of love, memory, grief, loss and madness in the story of Grace, a 64-year-old woman who, over the course of seven days, faces her past and her fears to come to an epiphany about her future.
For Kemp’s characters love is a physically and mentally painful experience. Grace was in the sexual thrall of her first husband Pete but suffered his frequent violence. Her narrowboat neighbours Luke and Linden are both, unknowingly, in love with the same man. Grace questions her relationship with her second husband Gordon, fearing that he will interpret any hint of consternation as a return of the madness that enveloped her on the first anniversary of her daughter’s death from a heroin overdose.
Yet when Grace first sets eyes on Luke she thinks she has seen the ghost of Pete. Memories of her teenage love for him come flooding back along with the violence and fear he put her through when they were married. Long-suppressed memories of the sadness her life has seen arise, leaving her to question her own sanity. Is it saner to stick with the status quo or to look for a new life in the future?
Ghosting is a short novel that will stick in the novel long after the last page is over.