SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 551 The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker Book Review |

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The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 1991
Review Posted: 4/2/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10

The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Rory and Julia move into Number 55, Lodovico Street, planning to refurbish the neglected house. If they had known what happened there the previous summer, they never would have crossed the threshold. Rory's brother, Frank, had lived there briefly, using a mysterious puzzle box to open a passageway to the realm of the Cenobites. Seeking untold pleasures, Frank summoned the creatures - but instead, they offered him unimaginable pain, dragging him back to their world with the promise of eternal torture. In a damp room on the second floor, Julia discovers that Frank left a part of himself behind, and since blood strengthens that presence, Julia leads a victim back to the house - then another, and another.

In The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker takes a tired cliche - the love triangle - and smashes all familiarity out of the storyline by adding dark rites and murder and a fearful race of sadists who would like nothing better than to "tear your soul apart." Rory adores his wife, Julia - but she has grown to despise her husband: "She wanted nothing that [Rory] could offer her, except perhaps his absence." Julia's thoughts turn more and more to Rory's brother, Frank - a careless adventurer with whom she shared a moment of passion the week before her wedding. Meanwhile, a family friend named Kirsty quietly pines away for Rory, but is soon fighting for her sanity - and her soul - as she is drawn into the bloody events on Lodovico Street.

When Frank gazes upon the Cenobites, "[t]he collision of sensuality and death appalled him." Clive Barker finds his most potent subject matter within this collision. A natural extension of his earlier short stories, The Hellbound Heart continues Barker's exploration of the dark territories first described in his "Books of Blood." Barker wallows in the same gruesome descriptions that earned him a reputation as one of the practitioners of the "cutting edge of horror": "Her nails raked the flesh of his cheek, and the skin, so recently grafted, slid away like silk. The blood-buttered meat beneath came into horrid view."

Unfortunately, Barker can't seem to maintain the same level of storytelling after the strong opening scenes (the introduction of the ritually scarred and punctured Cenobites; Frank's reappearance, his body ripped apart and sewn back together), and so the novella falls into a rut of standard hide-and-seek fare at its conclusion.

In the book, one of the characters watches the evening news and reflects that she has her own message for the world. Her thoughts perfectly describe The Hellbound Heart - a story "[a]bout the condition of the damned; about love lost, and then found; about what despair and desire have in common."
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