Writer Nancy Holder had a daunting task: translating Guillermo del Toro’s highly visual film of Crimson Peak into a novel. Holder’s novelization is intended as a tie-in to the movie; a companion to it. The book succeeds in that regard, amplifying certain scenes by omniscient narration, bringing the reader closer to the characters that are so brilliantly depicted onscreen.
Edith Cushing, the protagonist of the Gothic ghost story, defies societal conventions. An aspiring author, she views herself less as a Jane Austen and more of a Mary Shelley. Her resemblance to the latter goes beyond writing genre fiction: both women fall in love with romantic men. Thomas Sharpe is a baronet who sweeps American Edith off her feet and plants them in the red clay of his ancestral home in England. Residing in the decaying mansion are ghosts galore, and Sharpe’s less-than-cordial sister. Those who see the film prior to reading the novelization will have an indelible picture of Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain as the characters and this certainly works to the novel’s advantage.
Holder describes the movie’s costumes very well, but has the nigh impossible task of verbalizing the film’s sumptuous art direction. Such a lavishly detailed feast for the eyes is hard to replicate onto the page. Conversely, the ghosts fare better as mental visions than as CGI. Consider this passage: “From the floor, pulling itself out, a specter of purest scarlet, a grotesque revenant, emerged painfully, struggling, sucking its essence through the floor; the spine first, like taffy, then the back of the head while an arm withdrew from a viscous, sticky sludge. Bright red bones stretched in unnatural shapes, weirdly, wrongly jointed; the hand slapped down as if for leverage, purchase. Every part of it red; the second arm raising upward, digging itself out. And as the bride stared, paralyzed in horror, it began to crawl toward her. Faceless, scuttling. Implacable, coming to her, at her, for her.”
Whether taken in tandem with the film or not, Crimson Peak: The Official Movie Novelization is entertaining reading. For those who are enamored of all things del Toro, the novel is a must addition to a collection of his oeuvre. The flavor of the film vibrantly comes through, and the screenplay by del Toro and Matthew Robbins is respected, with a few minor modifications for the sake of literary enhancement. Courtesy of Titan Books and author Nancy Holder, the Gothic universe of Crimson Peak continues to beckon and entice.
Crimson Peak: The Official Movie Novelization is now available from Titan Books