I´m apologizing to the Halloween book bingo gods in advance for using this book for the “Modern Masters of Horror” square. Thomas Olde Heuvelt might be a lot of things, but a modern master of horror he isn´t. At least in my opinion. Because I did not like this book. Hex is the most nonsensical piece of writing I have read in a very long time.
Due to a curse the townspeople of Black Spring are forced to live with the town witch Katherine, who suddenly appears in their homes, standing in a corner with her sewn-up eyes and her sewn-up mouth. Over the time the townspeople have become very creative in making Katherina disappear, one of the few Dutch traits the authors has kept regarding his characters, before rewriting the book for an American audience:
“I loved the Dutch setting, and I loved the utter Dutchness of the book. Not in the sense that the witch smoked pot or stood behind some Amsterdam red-framed window; I´m talking about the secular nature of small-town Dutch communities and the down-to-earthness of its people. If a sane person sees a disfigured seventeenth-century witch appear in a corner of the living room, he runs for his life. If a Dutch person sees a disfigured seventeenth-century witch appear in the corner of the living room, he hangs a dishcloth over her face, sits on the couch, and reads the paper. And maybe sacrifices a peacock.”
Yeah sure, if Dutch people have smoked some pot they might act this way. Otherwise I´m sure they would act as every other sane person would do.
Besides the witch there are a bunch of crazy townspeople, the organization Hex who is keeping an eye on the witch 24-7, a weird connection to the government which is funding the whole Hex operation, a town council consisting of religious nutjobs and teenagers, who want to expose the witch as a non-dangerous entity, because they aren´t allowed to use twitter because of her.
Nothing of this made any kind of sense and Heuvelt´s writing (or maybe the translation) felt incredibly disjointed.
And Heuvelt´s use of imagery went completely over my head. There are foreheads, Griselda´s pate, nipples, nipples and more nipples and a variety of animals, who all have to suffer in this book (except the rats) and the deeper meaning of this repetitiveness has eluded me until the very end of the novel. But this didn´t stop Heuvelt to merge the different images into one big collage of yuck:
At a certain point a totally surreal illusion had appeared before his eyes. In the middle of the town square, all the children of Black Spring were tightly swaddled in cocoons of white linen, some small, some a little bigger, and bound together in an enormous, upright network of tightly stretched sheets. The structure reached high in the sky and shaped like a rounded cone, much like a female breast. […] On top of the breast was Katherine, like a gracious maternal nipple, pouring warm milk from a silver jug. It trickled down on all sides like a perfectly symmetrical fountain and was licked up by hundreds of eager children´s tongue.
[…] But then the image had flickered, and it wasn´t Katherine with her milk jug who crowned the nipple on the woven breast but Griselda Holst, the butcher´s wife, naked as the day she was born. Fat and fleshy, she towered over the parents of Black Spring. Just as she had always offered them her meat, now she was feeding it to their children. She was giving birth to it. Streams of paté gushed endlessly from her womb like afterbirth and dripped down the sides of the fountain, staining the perfect linen and sticking in globs to children´s faces.
Ugh, pass me the brain bleach, please. AGAIN! I´m sorry, but a book that contains drivel such as this doesn´t deserve more than a half star from me.
As for the ending: it was too preachy and moralizing for my taste and I wasn´t over the moon over by it. But then
so actually one thing I was hoping for has come to pass. Consider me satisfied on that account.