This book was quite fittingly the October book pick for Read Between the Wines. Let’s face it, this is a classic horror novel. Though, if I’m being honest, I hear a lot more about the movie than I do the book. I feel like there’s a reason for that. Don’t get me wrong, there’s only one person to thank for what was, at the time, the most frightening thing anyone had ever seen. This story, loosely inspired by true events (a fact I find utterly terrifying) is the brain child of none other than Blatty. I’ve heard numerous people of that generation say that The Exorcist haunted both their waking and sleeping hours after having seen it. Perhaps it’s that hype. Perhaps it’s the fact that I expected so much that left me a little wanting upon finishing this book. So let’s get into it, shall we?
I don’t really feel the need to do much of a synopsis here. We all know the story. Little girl gets possessed by a demon and mother seeks the assistance of the Catholic church to exorcise the demon. Both expletives and pea soup are hurled, and the rest is history. I’m going to jump right into it and tell you why I think I didn’t really enjoy this as much as I thought I would. It all comes down to the fact that it’s a bit dated at this point in time. I found the dialogue a bit odd, almost hokey, and I was often frustrated by decisions made by the characters. Maybe it would be better to say I was frustrated by the reactions of characters over the course of the novel to events as they unfolded. I felt the medical portions droned on a bit. I mean, it was quite ridiculous at a certain point that they were still trying to find a medical reason for her floating on the ceiling and shit like that.
At the time this came out, I’m sure it was quite shocking to read. These days, however, people of my generation have been sort of desensitized to shock value. Graphic language? Have you ridden with me in traffic? Sex and violence? Turn on the TV even for a second and I’m sure you’ll find something that would have made your Grandma’s toes curl. True, in any era reading about a little girl masturbating with a crucifix is extremely disturbing, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the shock value in this has faded over the years. Take away the automatic visceral reaction to that kind of stimuli and you just find yourself a little bored. Add to that the fact that these characters aren’t really that likeable, and there’s not much to keep your attention. The only character I really felt a connection to was Father Damian. And that may only be because the mental image I crafted for him was my gynecologist dressed as a priest. He’s really quite a nice and endearing man, so it helped.
So, really, I’m not saying this a bad book. This is a classic story that will never fall out of the horror canon. It, in fact, revolutionized the world of horror and deserves an immense amount of respect, as does Blatty for its creation. Unfortunately for me, however, it just didn’t pack the same punch I expected, and this was sort of the general consensus among our members. I still give it 3 stars as a deeply original story for its time that is well written, despite the fact that I didn’t really draw much enjoyment from it.