author: William Peter Blatty
series: The Exorcist #1
published: 1 June 1971
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: | series rating:
Georgetown, Washington D.C. Actress and divorced mother Chris MacNeil starts to experience 'difficulties' with her usually sweet-natured eleven-year-old daughter Regan. The child becomes afflicted by spasms, convulsions and unsettling amnesiac episodes; these abruptly worsen into violent fits of appalling foul-mouthed curses,
accompanied by physical mutation. Medical science is baffled by Regan's plight and, in her increasing despair, Chris turns to troubled priest and psychiatrist Damien Karras, who immediately recognises something profoundly malevolent in Regan's distorted fetures and speech. On Karras's recommendation, the Church summons Father Merrin, a specialist in the exorcism of demons . . .
- a few notes
- mini review in 5
- full review
- read this if…
content warning: ❗graphic descriptions and language, violence against children, satanism, blasphemy❗
POV: 3rd person
keywords/phrases: possession, exorcism, faith
tropes: good versus evil
- The 2011 anniversary edition is a revised edition, with an additional character and scene.
- This an important novel, revolutionary in its presentation of themes and in how it shaped the horror genre.
- It is very dark and disturbing, often uncomfortablee to read, as the author made no effort to soften the blow.
- The characters are incredible, flawed and complex.
- “Atmospheric” is a pale word to use to describe the book.
A note: I read the 2011 anniversary edition, which does differ from the OG 1971 first edition. There is an additional scene, a new character, and thorough revising and editing. According to an NPR interview in 2011, he wrote the original in nine months, receiving the screenplay offer just before finishing the first draft. As such, he never had a chance to revise the original, so it was published as is. Even Blatty has said of the 2011 version… “This is the version I would like to be remembered for.”
The novel was truly revolutionary in its time, in large part because of the themes and how those themes were handled in the story, as well as in how it shaped the horror genre. It is an incredibly dark and graphic story, not at all smoothed and softened or in any way made more palatable. It’s a novel that holds up to time, a marker that it is one of the best horror novels ever written.
The story is very complex, with very few characters that dwell outside the gray areas. Most of them are flawed, some more deeply than others, with their own thoughts and guilt and issues that affect them.
The descriptions in this novel are also incredible, if very graphic. It is definitely not a book for the faint of heart, with scenes that range from vaguely eerie to terrifying to the most disturbing. “Atmospheric” doesn’t seem like a big enough word to characterize this book.
This is one of those books that’s hard to qualify as a loved read, because the content makes “loved” seem like a cringey feeling for a book such as this. Not to mention the possible perception it might give of me as a person. So I will just go with… it’s a solid 5-star read.
Read this if you enjoy deeply psychological horror.
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