Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2020

THE HAUNTING OF ALMA FIELDING

A True Ghost Story

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London, 1938. Alma Fielding, an ordinary young housewife, begins to experience supernatural events in her suburban home.

Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian émigré and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research – decides to investigate. In doing so he discovers a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation's worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor's obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

With rigour, daring and insight, the pioneering non-fiction author Kate Summerscale shadows Fodor's enquiry, delving into long-hidden archives to find the human story behind a very modern haunting.

Published in the US in April 2021

Click here to order a signed copy from Waterstones

Praise for ‘The Haunting of Alma Fielding'

‘With her eye for evocative period detail, her sensitivity to the quirks and poignancies of human motivation, and her brilliant storytelling skills, Summerscale has taken this corker of a case and made it as gripping as a novel. An engaging, unsettling, deeply satisfying read’

Sarah Waters

 

‘[A] wonderful book about the world of mediums, it deals, very soberly, with a subject that’s often treated in a very trivial way. If I could have created a non-fiction companion for my novel Beyond Black, that would be the book’

Hilary Mantel, Open Book, BBC Radio 4 

 

'An empathetic, meticulous account of a spiritual unravelling; a tribute to the astonishing power of the human mind — but also a properly absorbing, baffling, satisfying detective story’

Aida Edemariam

 

‘A page-turner with the authority of history — The Haunting of Alma Fielding will stay with the reader as powerfully as the mystery at the heart of the story… An unvarnished account of unknowable things at a time of deep unease’

Philippa Gregory

 

‘Superb... The Haunting of Alma Fielding will have you up all night and grip you to your bones... An extraordinary feat of historical research and imaginative sympathy. Alma emerges from the pages a living, breathing woman — and one you can't forget. Kate Summerscale has another smash hit on her hands’

Kate Williams

 

‘In this terrific book, her best since The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale tells the story of Alma Fielding, a working-class wife and mother from Croydon who in 1938 became a one-woman forcefield of domestic weirdness’

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

 

‘Extraordinary… expertly told, with all the twists and turns of  a chilly novel by Wilkie Collins or Barbara Vine… the more Summerscale delves, the more she finds out about the hidden compartments of the human mind’

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

 

‘A detective novel, a ghost yarn and a historical record rolled into one… an electrifying reconstruction’

Fiona Sturges, i paper

 

‘Prepare not to see much broad daylight, literal or metaphorical, for days if you read this… the atmosphere evoked is something I will never forget’

Ysenda Maxtone Graham, The Times

 

‘Astonishingly gripping, with the bonus of a pleasingly chilling spookiness’

Jake Kerridge, Daily Mirror

 

‘Summerscale weaves personal records with meticulous research… to not just resurrect the people involved, but the world in which they lived. We are walking with the dead, but the author is conjuring something more believable, more unsettling, than anything you will find in a dodgy seance hall’

David Marsland, Evening Standard

 

Riveting… One of the many great pleasures of The Haunting of Alma Fielding, as in all of her work, is her knack of recreating the feverish atmosphere of the time’

Daisy Goodwin, The Sunday Times

 

‘With The Haunting of Alma Fielding, Summerscale does for ghosts what she did for murder in her very successful The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’

Caroline Moorehead, Times Literary Supplement

 

‘A chilling real life ghost story ... This book scared me witless’

Red

 

‘In its focus on the psychological, Summerscale’s unsettling story offers her most nuanced, empathetic work to date — a bright and engrossing tale of the grey space between hoax and haunting’

Zoe Apostolides, Prospect

 

‘Astonishingly gripping. As ever, she offers fascinating insights into what the story tells you about the era in which it unfolded and spots ingenious parallels in contemporary art and literature, but without ever allowing the narrative pace to slow up’

Sunday Express

 

‘Summerscale’s triumph is to render her ghost story riveting, whilst using it to illuminate the zeitgeist surrounding it… a wonderful journey along W. H. Auden’s ‘lane to the land of the dead’

Paul Spalding-Mulcock, Yorkshire Times 

 

‘As engrossing as a novel… a piercing, unforgettable example of how real life can be stranger than fiction’

Lucy Wood, Sublime Horror

 

‘Summerscale has an enviable nose for events, once briefly notorious, that are still singular and disturbing, and often riven with ambiguities. She sweeps out forgotten, often violent corners of our domestic history, revealing how collective fears sometimes coalesce around specific incidents… a compelling portrait of a moment of mass anxiety in which so deep was the longing to believe that anything could become believable’

Lucy Lethbridge, Literary Review

 

Official website © Kate Summerscale 2017. Background image: 1882 Reynolds map of London / Wikimedia Commons