The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick – Brilliant. I think.

the ghosts of heavenTitle: The Ghosts of Heaven

Author: Marcus Sedgwick

Genre: YA (I think?) multiple genres. I don’t even know.

Length: 336 pages

Published by: Hachette

Source: received for review


Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time.

This book went way over my head.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s actually a work of genius that I can’t comprehend.

Okay, so basically, we have four stories.

First we have cave girl.

Cave girl discovers writing, which is pretty cool.

Then we have witch girl.

Poor thing. She doesn’t get the most happy ending, I’ll just say that.

After that there’s crazy guy.

Except it’s not NARRATED by crazy guy, but by someone who works at the asylum. This one was possibly my favourite, and also really sad. I almost cried.

Last we have spaceship guy.

Completely incomprehensible. Although I did like the stuff about space.

They’re all in different styles, time periods, voices. The first one (cave girl) is in a kind of free verse, which I really liked. So that was different.

There’s a lot of stuff about spirals.

Don’t look at the gif too long. It’s mesmerising. Hypnotising.

So I kiiiind of got the point of the spirals. It linked in with how humans all through the ages are similar, because of our obsessions with creation, with discovering. It’s how spirals are everywhere, from the distant past to the distant future. But I feel like that’s quite a surface understanding, and I didn’t really get the higher meaning of that.


Let’s go back to the insane asylum one.

So like I’ve said, it was my favourite, and it almost made me cry. It makes you think about madness, and what it really is, and who the mad people really are. How humans always have to have a group of people that we condemn, because we don’t understand them (like in the second story, with the witches). It shows the strengths and the horror of humanity.

And that’s why I love this book.

But at the same time…I didn’t love it while I was reading it. It’s kind of a retrospective appreciation for the scope, thought and breadth of this novel, which is astounding.


Read this book if you want to be awed.

Like, I quite enjoyed the last story, with all the stuff about phi (the golden ratio) and black holes, and space travel. I love space. Space is awesome. So the ideas behind this book were amazing, but I wish the stories themselves had been more entertaining.

I also really don’t think this is YA, though that’s what it’s been marketed as. Strange.


Rating: 3/5 Wonderkitties


18 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick – Brilliant. I think.

  1. This sounds like a really unique and complex book with awesome characters. It’s also pretty cool that the author incorporated really sciency stuff like space and the golden ratio. I’m not really sure that this book is for me because I don’t really like witch books, but I might check it out. What do you mean by saying that it’s not really YA? Would you classify it more as MG or Adult?

  2. “Brilliant. I think.” <—– Ha ha, now I must read this one. I saw this in a bookstore yesterday, sitting there all prettily and hardback-y, and was verrrrrrry tempted. I really liked She's Not Invisible, so I think I'd probably like his other stuff, as well. (I hope.) It DOES sound very… deep, and I'm not sure that I personally would like (or understand…) that, but knowing me I'll give it a chance anyway. Great review. šŸ˜€ I am intrigued.

  3. Yep. i’m with you. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT EVEN HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK. I ended it just thinking, “What?” The last one really lost me. It absolutely did. So did the prologue. I just don’t think my brain is meant for this kind of book?!! It is pretty to look at, right?! That’s a plus.

  4. See I love the sound of this one but I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand and appreciate it LOL And I’m not a big fan of the fact that it’s four stories that can be read in any order. I like a distinctive “this is the way”, it helps me organise my thoughts. I like things that make me think though and this story about madness–it sounds super philosophical and whatnot. I WANT THAT. But…I don’t want all of it. The cover is pretty though. And the blue pages. I kind of have an addiction to coloured page sides…Fantastic review! x

  5. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves and NaNoWriMo Madness | The Loony Teen Writer

  6. Okay, this book sounds really strange and unique but I can say I’m intrigued. With the different people in different eras discovering different things, wow that sounds really neat. Great review Emily, definitely adding this to the TBR!

  7. This book just sounds downright strange. Like one of those that isn’t quite adult, but it sounds like it’s a little too mind numbing for it to be classed as YA as well. Mature YA? Is there such a thing? I like thought provoking books, but this sounds awfully busy. I’m in two minds now, the few reviews I’ve seen so far have been a little confused and not sure whether it was incredible, or terrible. Brilliant review Em ā¤ Be interesting to see if any other Aussie bloggers have a different perspective as well.

    • Yeah, exactly, I’m not sure how they decided to classify it as YA. None of the characters were teenagers and I just…yeah, it was weird. There haven’t been many reviews of this one that I’ve seen, but I did see a few on Goodreads extolling its virtues… šŸ™‚

  8. Oooo connected stories. I was reading Cait’s review on this, and apparently she didn’t get it and you did? Well yay cookies for you! But yeah I can see where the spiral and the connection of human history comes in. IT DOES SOUND INTERESTING, I might see if I can find a copy, probably from the library I guess šŸ˜€

    Thanks for the awesome review Emily!

  9. This book sounds so fantastic and yet so, so, terribly confusing at the same time…I’m quite undecided on whether or not I actually want to read this book…it does have a fantastic cover though, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll put it on hold at the library…thanks for amazing review, Em. šŸ™‚

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