At around 4 o’clock this morning I finished book 2 in my pursuit to read 10 books this month. The Hellbound Heart is a novella (at 164 pages) by Clive Barker. The movie Hellraiser, which was also written and directed by Clive Barker, was based on this novella.
I really enjoyed the synopsis as it is written on the back of the book:
The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, a nerve-shattering novella about the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within its endless domain. It is about greed and love, lovelessness and despair, desire and death, life and captivity, bells and blood. It is one of the most dead frightening stories you are likely to ever read.
That description really sums up the novel. At its core it is about a woman, Julia, who is beyond disgusted with her husband. She constantly lusts after her brother-in-law Frank, who she had an affair with days before her wedding. Frank will do anything to fulfill his sensual needs, including reaching into the depths of Hell. Then, the cenobites appear.
The thing about Clive Barker is that no matter what terrifying thing he is describing, he does it with such beauty. As I was reading this I commented to my husband that this truly would be a novel that students study in class, if it weren’t just a tad “R rated”. Here is an excerpt that I’ve found myself re-reading, for its beauty:
The seasons long for each other, like men and women, in order that they may be cured of their excesses.
Spring, if it lingers more than a week beyond its span, starts to hunger for summer to end the days of perpetual promise. Summer in its turn soon begins to sweat for something to quench its heat, and the mellowest of autumns will tire gentility at last, and ache for a quick sharp frost to kill its fruitfulness.
Even winter – the hardest season, the most implacable – dreams, as February creeps on, of the flame that will presently melt it away. Everything tires with time, and starts to seek some opposition, to save it from itself.
So August gave way to September and there were few complaints.
What a way to say summer changed into fall! It would be one thing if the entire novella was written in this flowery language – that could become overwhelming. This novella is not entirely composed of such descriptions. But every now and then a gem like that would pop up causing me to pause, re-read, and whisper “wow” to myself.
If you are a fan of the movie, one thing that will become apparent is that the Julia’s husband in the movie is different than Julia’s husband in the book. Her husband Rory in the novel is not Kirsty’s father like her husband Larry is in the movie. I’m not sure why there was such a change. In the book Rory and Kirsty are friends, while in the movie Larry and Kirsty are father and daughter. I will say though that since Clive Barker was both the master of word in print and on film that he made that change for a reason, and that both relationships work out just fine.
I give The Hellbound Heart 5 out of 5 stars. I’m a lover of horror in general, but when a novel leaves you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it, you know you have a good one no matter the genre.
So in closing, I leave you with the trailer for the original Hellraiser movie, which other than the Rory/Larry switch-up, really does stay true to the novella.