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The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker Book Review | SFReader.com
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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